The LGBT liaison for the Atlanta Police Department is currently on medical leave from the department after suffering a series of seizures in recent months.
“I am on sick leave for gran mal seizures,” said Officer Dani Lee Harris, who has been the APD LGBT liaison for five years. “I was put on indefinite medical leave on April 16.”
Some people at yesterday’s Grady High School counter protest of Westboro Baptist Church questioned why Harris was not there with the strong police presence on hand. Harris said she wanted to be there but could not be there as an officer.
“Our internal commander of the Department of Homeland Security did call me the day before the protest to ask me to be there but I could not go out in my official capacity. I wished I could have been there,” she said.
Dozens of officers were at the scene at Grady High School near Piedmont Park when hundreds showed up to counter protest a handful of WBC members and their anti-gay and anti-Semitic messages.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in an interview with Georgia Voice last month, said he planned to have two full-time LGBT liaisons within the police department after the botched raid of the gay Atlanta Eagle leather bar last year. Office Harris was not notified of the raid when it occurred, causing outrage among many LGBT Atlantans.
Reed said in the April 7 interview he plans to add another LGBT police liaison, so that in the future there will be “a minimum of two,” and to insure that they are integrated in the police department’s operations.
“I believe in the approach of full integration, so the notion that an event like the Eagle raid would be done without [the LGBT liaison] being aware of it would be dealt with an appropriate level of severity,” Reed said.
“That will not happen in my administration, and if it did, there would be dire circumstances as a result.”
The Georgia Voice contacted the mayor’s office this afternoon to ask if there is currently an LGBT liaison on duty within the APD; a spokesperson for the mayor said he would look into the issue and then respond.
In response, Atlanta Police Maj. Erika Shields issued the following statement about the new LGBT liaison and the Grady protest:
“Thank you for inquiring about the Department’s GLBT Unit liaison. Officer Harris is on leave at this time. We recently transferred Officer Patricia Powell to the unit to serve as the Department’s liaison. She is an excellent officer and I think you will be pleased at her joining the unit.
“The Department put an extensive amount of time in preparing for the protests of the Westboro Baptist Church. Our goal was to ensure the safety of all parties involved, while maintaining the high quality of life that residents of the City of Atlanta can reasonably expect.”
— Laura Douglas-Brown contributed