Friday, October 31, 2008

Police & "Fag-Bashing"

The brutality and homophobia displayed by the police in America since its founding is well known. The GLBT community is a "thorn" on the side of enforcement officials. It is an easy target. See the article below which, first, explains what happened recently in Johnson City, Tennessee following a sex sting operation and second, contextualizes the unfair treatment within the past history of LGBT-police relationships, including that in Tampa Bay.

From Lambda Legal
‘In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don’t like.’
(Johnson City, Tennessee, September 30, 2008) — Today Lambda Legal is filing a federal lawsuit in Tennessee on behalf of Kenneth Giles against Johnson City and its police chief. The lawsuit centers on the fact that the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD), in a highly unusual action for that Department, released photos of Giles and 39 other men who were arrested in a public sex sting operation.
“In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don’t like,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “They also do not get to ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. The JCPD went out of its way to humiliate Mr. Giles and caused irreparable damage.”
On October 1, 2007 the JCPD issued a press release, personally approved by the police chief, that included photos that were taken at the scene where 40 men, including Mr. Giles, were arrested in a public sex sting. The local news ran the story prominently along with the pictures and addresses of the men involved. Lambda Legal reviewed the police department’s press releases for over a period of a year and found that out of approximately 600 other releases, none pertaining to arrests was accompanied by photos or personally approved by the chief. Of the 40 arrested, one man has committed suicide, and several others have lost their jobs, including Kenneth Giles, who was fired from his job as a nurse at the VA hospital.
“I don’t understand how the police department can release photos of one group and not any others,” said Kenneth Giles. “I lost my livelihood because my arrest was treated differently.” ...

Police in Miami Beach admitted to a similar practice, with the Miami Beach police chief that his force would “harass” gay men “and let them know in no uncertain terms that they are unwelcome on Miami Beach.” One, Vol. II, No. 1 (Jan. 1954), p. 19.
The Vice Squad director in Tampa confessed in almost verbatim words that this also was true in his jurisdiction; One, Vol. IX, No. 12, p. 9 (Dec. 1961) (the “harassment routine . . . will continue until we’re sure these people know without a doubt they are not wanted in Tampa.”). One incident reflected the Tampa police department’s hostility toward lesbians, in addition to gay men. There, the police held twelve women without charge on “general investigation,’ to be fingerprinted, questioned, and subjected to mug shots. If their records are clean, said the vice chief, ‘We’ll have to let them go for now, but we’re going to keep after them until we run them out of town.’” One, Vol. V, No. 8 (Oct.-Nov. 1957), p. 19.

Click here for full article.

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