The Atlanta Police Department’s new LGBT advisory board will meet for the first time on Monday, the start of a panel that the agency hopes will help improve relations with the city’s gay residents.
The raid of the Eagle in September 2009 severely strained the relationship between the police department and gay residents, and the agency’s handling of its LGBT liaison until recently – despite a new mayor and police chief taking office – hasn’t helped.
But police officials hope the nine-member panel helps to change that. Atlanta police moved to create the panel after the idea surfaced in May during a public meeting with LGBT activists, non-profit leaders and the media to introduce the agency’s latest LGBT liaison, Officer Patricia Powell (photo). Since then, the agency has faced a formal complaint from longtime LGBT liaison Officer Dani Lee Harris and placed her on leave, a call for sanctions against some officers involved in the Eagle raid, an internal investigation into the raid that has lasted nearly a year, a federal lawsuit over the action, and continued questions over how it uses its LGBT liaisons.
Last month, Mayor Kasim Reed and police Chief George Turner announced the nine members of the panel, which officials have said will meet quarterly. The members, culled from dozens of applications received since Atlanta police asked for nominations in July, include a cross-section of business owners, community activists, non-profit leaders and a member of the clergy.
“One of my priorities on becoming chief was to repair the relationships and build the trust we had lost in various communities over the years,” Turner said in announcing the appointments. “We recognize the importance of the GLBT community all over Atlanta, and want to make sure we are listening to their concerns. We hope they can help us become a smarter department, and together work to create a safer city for all.”
The board’s meeting is set for Monday at 10 a.m. at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Midtown. It is open to the public.