Atlanta police train with homophobic, anti-trans material

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The Atlanta Police Department, under fire as recently as May for failing to implement reforms after the Eagle raid, still teaches its recruits that consensual sodomy is illegal, “unnatural” and comparable to bestiality, chicken hawks are pedophiles and includes pejorative terms for transgender people.

The misinformation and offensive terminology is included in Atlanta police training materials for instruction on sex crimes investigation. Among the most misguided of the materials is a slide that includes consensual sodomy among sex offenses punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Except that consensual sodomy in Georgia has been legal since 1998.

And in 2013, the Georgia Supreme Court reiterated just how legal it is in a court decision that, ironically, involved a police officer soliciting same-sex sodomy from a 17-year-old. The ruling in the case spelled out that sodomy between consenting adults is legal. Yet Atlanta police officers undergoing this training are taught that “sodomy is oral or anal sex with consent” and that “punishment for sodomy is 1 to 20 years.”

The police training material:

Calls sodomy unnatural and compares it to buggery.

Teaches that consensual sodomy is illegal. (Spoiler: It's not.)

Includes consensual sodomy among sex offenses including bestiality.

Uses outdated terms to describe transgender people.

Gives chicken hawk a new (and disturbing) definition.

The training materials are “ugly and offensive” and could contribute to officers being incorrectly trained, according to Dan Grossman, a gay attorney who helped sue the city on behalf of eight people arrested during the police raid of the Eagle in 2009. Grossman provided the police training materials to Project Q Atlanta. He provides a more detailed breakdown in a post on his website.

“It is disgusting that it even exists,” Grossman said. “They are effectively training officers to make unlawful arrests for stuff that is not a crime. It is ugly and it is offensive.”

On Sept. 10, 2009, Atlanta police officers raided the Atlanta Eagle, arrested patrons and employees and touched off a legal and political storm that lasted years and cost the city nearly $2.7 million in lawsuit settlements and investigations.

As part of the legal settlements, the city agreed to reform the police department. But those efforts fell short and the city was held in contempt by a federal judge in May.

And now, the slides show that despite the years of costly lawsuits and even an apology from Mayor Kasim Reed for the raid, that the police department faces another setback in its efforts to improve its relationship with the city's LGBT residents.

“Oral and anal sex is a normal, accepted, healthy part of adult gay intimate relationships,” Grossman said. “Normal, healthy adult relationships should not be included in the same sentence as pedophilia, bestiality and all this other nasty stuff.”

“It is just ugly. It is appalling and more than anything it is unlawful and wrong,” he added.

Grossman also said that the derogatory language in the training material likely violates departmental policies that prohibit officers from using discriminatory language – Standard Operating Procedures at the heart of the Eagle lawsuit settlement.

“I think this very PowerPoint presentation violates the SOP. It is tied to the Eagle case in that the Eagle case punished officers using discriminatory language. Here we have police officials using the same language,” Grossman said.

Vince Champion, a veteran police training officer and southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which has a union for Atlanta police officers, said the training materials could lead to officers making unlawful arrests and heighten tensions between officers and LGBT residents.

“It can and should be offensive to the gay community,” Champion said. “If these officers were to go out with that knowledge and tone of the PowerPoint, then that is going to put a wider disconnect between the gay community and law enforcement.”

Champion added that much of the material isn't relevant to teaching officers about sex crimes.

“It's offensive to me as a police officer, it's offensive to me as an instructor, it's offensive to me as a person,” Champion said.

A city spokesperson said the materials are being reviewed by the mayor's office and Atlanta police.

UPDATE | A police spokesperson said the training materials will be updated. “When this training course was created, it was based upon state mandated training materials as well as information gathered from other police agencies,” Elizabeth Espy, public affairs director for Atlanta police, said in a statement. “It is currently under review and will be updated. The Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT liaisons will be involved in this process.”


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