Gay activists hope new chief has ideas on how to rebuild trust

Atlanta police chief finalists meet public in town hall meeting tonight

The City of Atlanta is holding a town hall meeting today to introduce the public to the three finalists for the Atlanta Police Chief post. The meeting will be held at the Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA 30308, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The three finalists are interim chief George Turner, who was appointed by Mayor Kasim Reed when he took office after Richard Pennington stepped down; Dr. Cedric Alexander, head of the Transportation Security Administration at the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas International Airport; and Robert White, the Louisville, Kentucky Metro police chief.

Numerous issues face the APD, including funding shortfalls, crime in the city and a shortage of officers on the streets. Many gay activists are also hopeful the new police chief can help rebuild a trust between LGBT residents, especially after the Sept. 10 raid on the Atlanta Eagle.

“I think the new appointment of a chief will be an opportunity for the APD to reestablish the relationship with our community and we can work together,” Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse owner Philip Rafshoon told Georgia Voice for this week’s cover story.

“Whoever it is [the next chief], things like the Eagle cannot happen again. There is a lot of strengthening of relationships and communications between the LGBT community and the APD that needs to take place.”

Rafshoon, along with activist Kyle Keyser, were the two gay representatives on a committee that sent their recommendations for police chief to Mayor Reed.

At a recent roundtable with the APD’s new LGBT liaison, Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan also noted that trust between gay residents and the APD has eroded.

“Even though we have a liaison, it doesn’t feel like a partnership and there is no accountability. The Eagle [raid] really set us way back,” Wan, who is gay, said at the May 19 meeting. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The community needs to participate as well, Wan stressed, even by joining the Citizens Police Academy to see what police officers face.

But the community needs to see the police be proactive on LGBT issues because “the trust isn’t there,” he said.