LGBT, Atlanta Police Dialogue Held

10-09-09, 9:20 am

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA – Key members of the Atlanta Police Department and leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community gathered in the Virginia Highlands on Monday, October 05, 2009, to discuss police tactics in the wake of last month’s controversial raid on the Atlanta Eagle.

Department officials declined to comment on the September 10 incident--the news of which was first reported by Atlanta Progressive News--because there is an ongoing investigation, but they did engage in a general discussion of departmental tactics and behavior.

Many Eagle patrons allege members of the APD Red Dog Unit, which provides aggressive police presence in areas that have a high incidence of street drug sales, use, and drug related crimes, used derogatory language and unnecessary force in carrying out the raid that resulted in the arrest of eight Eagle staff members.

'There’s always some [officers] who aren’t doing their jobs like they’re supposed to,' Deputy Chief Carlos Banda said. 'If the Red Dog officers did something wrong, they should be punished and they will be.'

Richard Ramey, Eagle co-owner, apologized to all the patrons who were forced to lay face down on the club’s floor for a prolonged period and to those staff members who were arrested.

'I’m so sorry this happened to y’all,' he said. 'I’ll do anything to help you.'

Ramey said the LGBT community and the APD 'need to do everything in our power to get this behind us.'

'We [Atlanta] don’t need to be known as a bad place for gay people,' he said.

Sgt. Brent Schierbaum, an openly homosexual officer, said his colleagues do not tolerate disrespectful behavior.

'If we believe homophobia exists in the department, we would denounce it,' he said. 'That’s not what we want in our department.'

Schierbaum was one of several openly homosexual officers in attendance Monday, including Maj. E. Rene Propes of Zone 6, Det. Michael Graham, and Officer Danni Lee Harris, who is the LGBT liaison for the APD.

Banda acknowledged the Red Dog Unit uses tactics that 'are a little more aggressive' than other units only because they are specially trained for certain situations.

Sgt. Scott Kreher, President of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, described the unit as a 'secondary SWAT team.'

But Banda said the department has to investigate bars and clubs when citizens raise complaints. 'We don’t really have a choice. Whether we like the law or not, we have to enforce the law equally,' he said.

Harris said she is redoubling outreach efforts to all gay and lesbian clubs and bars to make sure each understands what the law is and to discuss how the APD might better handle similar future situations.

Harris was not originally notified of the raid on the Eagle and did not learn of the incident until afterwards when she was contacted by a reporter. At that time, she expressed disappointment for not having been involved.

She also noted all APD officers are required to take an eight-hour class on diversity training and a half day class on how to interact with the LGBT community.

Banda committed to holding quarterly meetings to continue dialogue that began Monday night.

'We’ve got to work together, we’ve got to be together,' he said. 'If that doesn’t happen, we all fail.'

--Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at