The Atlanta Police Department names new LGBT liaison

APD's new LGBT Liaison officer
Officer Brian Sharp (courtesy Atlanta Police Department)

Sharp teams up with Officer Patricia Powell as the second LGBT liaison. This is the first time the department has had two gay liaisons and is the first male appointed to this post since it was initiated under the administration of former Chief Richard Pennington.

“I expect Officer Sharp to expand on the great work and tireless efforts Officer Powell began in May to help us build bridges of cooperation and understanding within the GLBT community,” Turner said in a press release announcing Sharp’s new job.

Reed added that he was “committed to making sure all Atlantans feel safe and are treated with respect in our great city.”

“The gay community has made tremendous contributions to the social, cultural, political and economic fabric of Atlanta,” he said in a statement. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ‘I won’t stop until our police department is looked upon as a model for GLBT community relations in the nation.’ I know we can get there,” Reed added.

As a beat officer in Zone 2 (which includes mostly the northeast portion of the city), Sharp worked on morning watch and he has also been a traffic enforcement officer, according to the press release.

He joined the department in February 2007 after working at a youth detention facility as an administrator. His prior work experience includes retail and restaurant management.

Sharp grew up near Rome, Ga., is involved with PFLAG and volunteers for the Atlanta Pet Rescue.

Former LGBT liaison Dani Lee Harris speaks out, plans fundraiser

The APD announcement comes on the same day Dani Lee Harris, the former LGBT liaison, stating she would hold a press conference on Saturday at a fundraiser on her behalf.

Harris has said she believes she has been blackballed by the department by not being allowed to return to work after being put on leave in April.

During the APD’s new GLBT advisory board meeting on Sept. 20, some board members asked about the status of Harris.

“If we are to establish trust between the community and the APD there has to be dialogue,” said board member Betty Couvertier, a longtime activist who hosts the LGBT radio show “Alternative Perspectives” on WRFG 89.3 FM. “We need to have information about Dani. We have talked to her and she’s not very happy and we need to take that into consideration. She is without pay.”

On Aug. 31, Carlos Campos, public affairs manager for the APD, issued a statement that Mayor Kasim Reed and Chief George Turner were working “expeditiously to ensure there are two active GLBT liaisons working with the community for the Atlanta Police Department — pledges made by both Mayor Reed and Chief Turner.

“Chief Turner has said many times that officers are subject to assignment changes at any time and that there is no permanent job post within the Atlanta Police Department — no matter the position. Officer Harris remains on leave from the department, and any further comment on her employment status would be inappropriate.”

After the advisory board meeting on Sept. 20, Harris told the Georgia Voice the police department is “lying” about her inability to come back to work.

“I’m in a situation where they are refusing to let me come back to work,” she said.

“I’m not eligible for unemployment because [the APD] says I’m on medical leave. I’m not out on medical leave or out because I’ve done something wrong — I’m just out,” Harris said.

Harris has filed a complaint against a civilian employee of the APD with the department’s Office of Professional Standards. She also filed a complaint with the Atlanta Citizens Review Board, but the CRB said her complaint of sexual discrimination did not fall under their purview.

““She feels she has been discriminated against because of her sexual orientation. This issue is rather serious,” said CRB Executive Director Cristina Beamud. “The most notable violation was the language she was subjected to but that was uttered by a non-sworn employee. And the whole issue of discrimination in the workplace is not within this board’s jurisdiction.”

According to the complaint filed with the CRB, Harris said she was subjected to a derogatory remark on April 16 about her gender identity. A recording of the remarks is included with the complaint, Harris told Georgia Voice.

Here is Harris’ statement issued today about her fundraiser on Saturday and the questions surrounding her absence from the department:

“There have been many questions raised as to the whereabouts of my presence within APD. I would love to answer these questions at an upcoming fundraiser being held this Saturday.

“The APD has blackballed me since last year for standing up against discriminatory practices and gay slanderous remarks made to me directly.  They have lied to the media in saying I am out on medical leave when I have never been out for medical reasons. I was sent home without pay since April and there is nothing in writing as to why. The Atlanta Citizens review board has spoken up about this issue as well. I am giving the media an opportunity to hear the truth and expose the cover ups and lies being stated by our officials.

“Enough is enough and my family and I have suffered tremendously financially and emotionally for standing up for truth and justice. Trust me when I tell you, this is a must attend event. I will speak to the media at 3 p.m. until all questions are answered. How can a city entity get away with lying, retaliation and deception without being questioned? I say that it is impossible to say you stand for unity with the gay community when you discriminate against one of your own.

“I have represented the GLBT community for the past five years and I am an out and proud Intersex individual that believes in integrity and truth. Saturday.”

Dani Lee Harris fundraiser
Saturday, Oct. 2
3-6 p.m.
The Power Center
2144 Ste F Hills Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30318