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Workshops at law-enforcement confab tackle LGBT issues
Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Micki Leventhal
2010-06-30

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Among the four days of learning opportunities during the 14th Annual International LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals, hosted by LGPA/GOAL-Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel June 22-27, were many that dealt directly with LGBT issues in law enforcement. Below are synopses of two workshops that took place:

—"Prison Rape: A Workshop to Assist Correctional Officers in Complying with the Public Law 108-79, the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act ( PREA ) "

Although it is the stuff of locker room humor, Saturday Night Live sketches and endless jokes by ubiquitous late-night talk-show hosts, prison rape is very real and deadly serious. Three officers from the Michigan Department of Corrections—James Sims, resident unit officer for the Florence Crane Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich.; Linda Beckwith, deputy warden at Crane; and Terri Huffman, resident unit manager at Crane—presented the workshop.

The trio covered the history of PREA, how the law impacts departments of correction, recognizing the signs and symptoms of sexual assault in a jail setting and the laws requirements for reporting. The workshop also emphasized that the law is a top national priority, although implementation and compliance is at the local jurisdictions. Presenters stressed the traumatic impact—physical, emotional and sociological—of sexual assault on inmates and the ethical responsibility of the LGBT community to be leaders in the advocacy for PREA.

PREA, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in September 2003, developed from the Farmer vs. Brennan Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled that it was the responsibility of prison officials to keep prisoners from hurting each other and that prison employees who were "deliberately indifferent" were liable under the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. The suite was brought by a pre-op male-to-female transgender inmate, Dee Farmer, who was repeatedly raped and beaten by male inmates and became infected with HIV. Farmer, who had been incarcerated with the general male population, claimed that prison officials should have known she would be particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. Edward Brennan was the warden of the prison.

Transgender issues are certainly at the forefront of the factors involved in the incidence of prison rape and the efforts toward reform and compliance with the law. Patrick M. Callahan, a retired police officer and transman who is now the head of Transgender Community of Police & Sheriffs ( www.TCOPS-International.org ) , was in attendance and assisted in representing the specific concerns of the transgender community.

—"Diversity in Law Enforcement in the United Kingdom: A Historical Perspective on Social Progress"

While we in the United States and residents of the United Kingdom ( England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ) speak roughly the same language, the structure of government is very different.

In the U.K. regulations, policies and procedures for law-enforcement agencies are determined at the national level, and so are the laws. This structure means that while the various counties or regions ( read "states" ) certainly have differing values and social mores—and there might be local resistance to change or social progress—provincial attitudes do not get to dictate rights under the law.

Diane Doyle, leadership trainer with the British Transport Police, provided the history of three criminal cases in England that resulted in tremendous change in community policing and expanded recognition and rights for LGBT law enforcement officers in the United Kingdom.

The Brixton area of London is poor and predominantly Black, and police commonly engaged in racial profiling in their "sweeps" of area youth. In 1981 two incidents ignited the citizenry in the "Brixton Riots" that spread all over the country. The ensuing investigation into the causes of the uprising resulted in a number of reforms including changes in officer recruitment and training; diversity training in the academy and the establishment in 1985 of an independent police complaints authority. The new agency meant the elimination of United Kingdom's version of Internal Affairs; when a citizen lodged a complaint against an officer an independent body would not reviewed the case.

The second landmark case occurred in 1993 when a Jamaican college student, Stephen Lawrence, was stabbed to death by a gang of white youths. Accusations of corruption and a willfully botched investigation and a prosecution in which the five suspects were acquitted of the brutal race murder resulted in further investigation and reform: The United Kingdom now has a uniform definition of racism and codes of practice for the investigating, recording and reporting of all race-based incidents and crimes; all public authority employees receive ongoing race and cultural training; and public authority agencies must actively recruit minority employees.

The third incident was specifically gay-related: In 1999 David Copeland, a member of a neo-Nazi group, planted a nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan, a gay bar in Soho, killing three people and injuring dozens. During the investigation it came to light that there were no viable communications between the LGBT community and the police—not surprising since a police officer could be fired for being gay.

But officers came out of the closet to establish links within the community and investigate the case, resulting in the 2000 arrest and sentencing of Copeland to 50 years in a maximum security criminal psychiatric facility.

The courage of these officers coupled with the evidence of other LGBT hate crimes uncovered during the investigation and increased advocacy resulted in new employment regulations in 2003 that protect the jobs and rights of LGBT officers. A national gay police association now monitors the law-enforcement agencies, their interactions with the LGBT community and the treatment of LGBT officers. Today, U.K. officers are subject to dismissal for making homophobic remarks.


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