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BREAKING - MY CONVERSATION WITH FT. WORTH POLICE DPT.

This morning, bright and early, I got a call from Sgt. Pedro Criado--a man who sounded like he'd lost quite a bit of sleep lately. I had called the "media contact" number last night and left my information, expecting a standard email, and to my surprise I got a call back bright and early (7am, Texas time). Sgt. Criado was very cordial and forthcoming in answering my questions about the "code inspection" at the Rainbow Lounge, and he was able to clear up some mysteries--though now I have more questions for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; who, by the way, are those guys in the tan shirts that say "State Police."

In fact, there needs to be a separation made here between the guys in the tan "State Police" shirts and the guys in the blue "Ft. Worth Police" shirts... I've taken a look at all of the pictures from the event--all of the photos of people being calmly handled (hand-cuffed or not) being questioned in a standing position are being handled by men in blue. All of the photos of people being violently shoved to the ground are being handled by men in tan. Sgt. Pedro Criado said that he can't speak for the TABC--and the press release below is ONLY from the Ft. Worth Police Dpt, it is NOT a joint press release--so I think I have way more questions now for TABC than the Ft. Worth Police. Like, "why couldn't you follow the Ft. Worth police lead and be decent people, rather than go around getting photographed beating the shit out of people?" I was not there, so I therefore do not know which officers were being 'over-zealous' and which were not, but I do now recognize the distinction in the pictures.

Sgt. Criado's wanted me to encourage anyone who was there to please come and lodge formal complaints and make formal statements because they are trying to conduct a formal investigation and he seemed quite sincere when he said they want to get to the bottom of it. He said that they released their press statement earlier than they normally would, though later than people wanted because they wanted to be thorough, but they still want more information.

He is asking for pictures and video. Though I'm pretty sure that I don't have any readers in Texas (though I do in Belgium--hey Belgian reader, whoever you are!) if you DO happen to read my blog and were there, please take WHATEVER evidence you have down to the station. This Sgt. Criado really sounded like a good one, so you can ask to talk to him if the other people are less than nice.

He expressed concern with me at the hate and vitriol they have been receiving--and he said "you have no idea what people have been saying"--which I saw as a teachable moment, and explained to him that many gays and lesbians have to experience that kind of hate every day in their life, and hopefully this is an opportunity for the Ft. Worth police to learn something and become educated about this segment of their city's population. He seemed to get it--he's been studying the Stonewall Uprising ever since, and said he had never heard about it before that night, but now he will never forget about it--or the date.

He wanted to be clear to me that homophobia would not be tolerated on their force "Everybody deserves respect; black, white, latino, or whatever your sexual preference is. Our officers should give respect to everyone--unless they give you a reason not to." I totally agree, and if anyone was threatening officers, then I think that WOULD be grounds to arrest them. I think I take exception to arresting someone for being flirty with an officer, but I kept my mouth shut, because I'm pretty sure the Ft. Worth Police are going to learn that on their own before this is all done. That I did press to him--this is probably going to take a long time to go away.

About that flirtiness, however, he said the commander made him change the language in the press release below to "sexually suggestive movements" but it sounds like the first two people who got arrested were arrested for grinding on the officer's legs--not his words, but mine. I don't think that grinding is all that horrible--how many girls probably go up to the officers in straight bars, and flirtily grind against them when they come in. I'm sure I've SEEN it before. However, what he DOES have a point with here, is that that is a good indication that that person is fairly drunk (unless that person is me, because I am a clown drunk or sober).

MY QUESTION NOW IS: IF THAT'S THE CASE IS THIS ENFORCED EVENLY? If they walked into a packed straight bar, and some cute big-boobed chick with big frizzy blonde hair, and a low cut top came up to them and danced provocatively on them, would SHE be zip-tied, no questions asked?

My first reaction that I interjected quickly with Sgt. Criado was "maybe they thought they were strippers or go-go dancers." Its true, if I were in a bar, and a few people came in dressed as cops, it wouldn't be too far fetched to think this was a performance deal.

The most surprising thing, however, was the answer about the "breathalyzer" issue--if you read a previous post, I quoted the Dallas Voice's account of a patron who was insisting that they were sober, demanding a breathalyzer, who was being hustled out. Sgt. Criado said that breathalyzers are only used for traffic issues, and that assessing if someone is overly intoxicated at the bar is "up to the officers' discretion." Here lies the rub. This is where the Ft. Worth Police and the TABC are going to get stroked over the rails EQUALLY. Regardless of who was rougher with the patrons, police-gay relations are already sensitive everywhere in the world. You add to it that its the south. You add to it that it is a brand new gay bar and its the officer's FIRST contact with it. Add to it the FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF STONEWALL, things are VERY sensitive. This is not a good time to leave things ambiguous and subjective. They should have gone a little extra and brought breathalyzers in and made SURE that people they arrested were INDEED at a dangerous level of intoxication.

He did point out that not everyone taken outside was arrested. The officers--as they well should--make an assessment visually or by breath or speech slurring, and then take someone outside to make the determination as to whether or not they are really overly intoxicated--away from the noise and the crowds and in better light. This right here is something I see no problem with. However, with a community where police relations are sensitive, an objective instrument like a breathalyzer must be used, and only then you should ONLY cart off people who were planning on driving home, or whose BAC is at a dangerously high level and any more drinks could lead to alcohol poisoning.

When the police are dealing with a community who have HISTORICALLY been not only harassed but even BRUTALIZED by police, its in their best interest to cover THEIR own asses to avoid this kind of firestorm. After talking to the Sgt. I do believe HE at least is not homophobic--just not familiar at all with the gay community. Looking at the pictures, I see no Ft. Worth police handling people they are talking to in inappropriate manner--though I'm disturbed by the TABC officers in the pictures holding patrons to the ground. However, there is no way to contest allegations of unfairly targeting a group if you're leaving that determination of who goes in the paddy wagon and who doesn't up to the officer's discretion. What's worth, you're putting that officer in a very awkward position. You have one officer who gets it wrong more than the others--he pulls five people out and none of them ended up being actually intoxicated--and what is now going to be said about him?

Regardless of whether he is or not, now that guy looks like a homophobe. That's a big burden to bear.

The Ft. Worth Police ought to take from this that actions need to be modified when the situation is more sensitive--more precautions taken, more care and time in planning and execution, and better care made in making an objective determination if someone, indeed, deserves to get hauled off and booked.

Speaking of that paddy wagon, apparently it IS typical--especially during the summer--for officers to bring the transport vehicle to a code inspection. That IS enforced evenly, he says they bring it to all of the code inspections. Glad I don't live in Texas!


BELOW is the press release as it was emailed to me. I want to thank Sgt. Pedro Criado for his time, his transparency and his willingness to deal with me courteously and carefully. I HOPE that the ENTIRE police force there is doing the same with EVERYONE involved. I was not there, but I'm very upset about this too. He said they are getting calls from coast to coast--some not so constructive (please DO NOT contact them just to scream, curse or call names)--and I think that this is going to turn out to be a positive learning experience for the Ft. Worth Police Dpt. They seem to me to be open to learning the lesson. Let's hope that they do.

<span class=FWPD">

Media Contact:

Sergeant Pedro Criado

817-392-4214

Pedro.Criado@fortworthgov.org

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

6/28/2009

FORT WORTH, TX -

PRESS RELEASE:

DETAILS AND SEQUENCE OF EVENTS LEADING TO A BAR CHECK AT THE RAINBOW LOUNGE:

On Thursday evening, June 6, 2009, a TABC Agent entered into NPD2 and teamed up with a patrol officer in order to conduct alcoholic beverage code inspections of area clubs. While they were out, they performed these inspections into the Friday morning hours. At approximately 10:00 p.m., Thursday evening, they stopped by the Rainbow Lounge located at 651 S. Jennings in anticipation of conducting an inspection as this club is newly opened and has not received an inspection before this date. While waiting on the supervisor to arrive, which is standard operating procedure, the owner of the Rainbow Lounge approached the officers asked if there was a problem. The TABC agent explained they were waiting on a patrol supervisor to make the scene before conducting an inspection of his establishment. An inspection at the Rainbow Lounge was not conducted on this date (Friday). Other locations, however, were inspected as a continuing effort to educate and enforce over serving alcohol to intoxicated individuals.

On Saturday morning, June 27, 2009, a person identifying himself as the owner of the Rainbow Lounge called the local police station and spoke with a supervisor to ascertain if there was a problem at the Rainbow Lounge. At approximately 3:30 p.m., a Fort Worth Police sergeant spoke with the owner of the Rainbow Lounge and explained they were conducting alcoholic beverage code inspections in the area. The owner advised the sergeant officers were welcome anytime to conduct an inspection of his establishment. The sergeant advised the owner of the Rainbow Lounge that officers would return to the area this evening to continue inspections and would inspect his establishment.

On Sunday morning, June 28, 2009, at 12:30 a.m., six (6) Fort Worth Police Officers, two (2) TABC agents and a supervisor conducted inspections at 160 W Rosedale (Rosedale Saloon and Cowboy Palace). This inspection resulted in nine (9) arrests. Once the inspection was completed at these locations, officers proceeded to the Rainbow Lounge.

Officers arrived at the Rainbow Lounge to conduct the scheduled inspection. Some officers remained outside while some entered the club. While walking through the Rainbow Lounge, an extremely intoxicated patron made sexually explicit movements toward the police supervisor. This individual was arrested for public intoxication. Another intoxicated individual also made sexually explicit movements towards another officer and he was arrested for public intoxication. A third individual inside the lounge assaulted the TABC agent by grabbing the TABC agent's groin. He was escorted outside and arrested for public intoxication. The decision was made to release him to paramedics due to his extreme intoxicated state as he was repeatedly vomiting. While dealing with this person, another officer requested assistance from inside the club as he had an intoxicated individual that was resisting arrest. This person was placed on the ground in an effort to control and apprehend. A total of seven (7) arrests were made from the Rainbow Lounge during this inspection. The total arrest count for the entire evening totaled 16.

Alcohol beverage code inspections are conducted frequently at establishments located within the city limits of Fort Worth. These are conducted in order to ensure a safe environment for all. A thorough internal investigation into the allegations made is being conducted as all allegations against officers are investigated.

For additional information, or to download any included attachments for this post, please login to the FWPD Public Information Portal at: http://www.fortworthgov.org/applications/Media/Post.aspx?PostID=548.

Comments

nimbusthegreat said…
what are the chances of finding his counterpart with the TABC and widely publicizing his or her number as well. it sounds to me like this is just as much on TABC if not more so. we should hold their feet to the flames as much as we are the ft worth police department!
Newscrazy said…
Completely concur, but they aren't commenting right now. Apparently they don't WANT to go into damage control mode, like the FWPD does. For all our criticism of what happened, my impression is that FWPD is willing to and hoping to learn from this. While I don't see that as much from the TABC.
Polarbear95404 said…
I'm willing to believe the TABC (cop wannabes with little training and less experience) are primarily responsible for this abusive, nay, criminal behavior under color of authority. However explain the Ft. Worth Police Chief's defense of the violence. Does the police chief in Ft. Worth serve at the pleasure of the City Council or is he civil service. Sounded like he's in need of some sensitivity training AND needs to learn to better supervise the troops.
Newscrazy said…
Absolutely. I tried to make the point in the post that on Ft. Worth's side, I think its less about homophobia, and more about a complete lack of understanding of the gay community--and I totally got that vibe from the Sgt. I spoke with there. The WILL to make a connection was there, but there was little or no foundation. THIS MAY VERY WELL JUST BE the foundation. If the Fort Worth gay community WANTS a good relationship with their police force, I think they can TOTALLY find the starting point here. I think the police RECOGNIZE that something is most definitely wrong and they've got some fixing to do, but they just don't know what.

In the case of the excessive force, I think the officers just didn't know how to handle or deal with a drunk gay, and had no sense of humor about things. Again, had a relationship already existed between the PD and this bar, the boys in blue would have been familiar faces to the patrons and vice versa, and the cops would have known how to handle the individual drunkies in a more humane way, rather than switch into 'book em' mode.

When it comes to Chad Gibson, however, it was the TABC that slammed him down into the pavement. They're refusing to answer questions. For all of his condescention at the press conference, at least the FWPD chief is trying to open the lines of communication. TABC is hiding up in Austin. Not good.

I think the gay press and leaders up in Austin ought to start making a LOT of noise.

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