Alex Blaze

Atlanta PD's LGBT liaison during the Eagle bar raid out of a job

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 04, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Atlanta police, bisexual, dani lee harris, darlene harris, eagle bar raid, lesbian, LGBT, police, pride, transgender

After the police raid on Atlanta's Eagle gay bar last year, where people were dani-lee-harris.jpgsystematically searched, had their cell phones confiscated, and insulted by homophobic police officers, officer Dani Lee Harris, the Atlanta PD's LGBT liaison, who was not told about the raid in advance, defended the department at rallies and to the press. She told us the raid happened because of "criminal sexual activity," although no one was charged with any much less convicted, and defended the police who conducted the raid as "a really good unit. I know those guys, I know those girls." The LGBT community in Atlanta didn't react well to her being named co-Grand Marshal of their pride last year and she marched without her uniform on. [Update: She agreed not to wear it, but she ended up wearing it.]

The moral of the story, that she didn't seem to get because she knew who was paying her bills, was that the police will never be on the side of queer people. Queer sexuality is about forging your own path for love and sex; the police are about using violence to force people to follow rules. That doesn't mean that every police officer is homophobic or that the police can't help queer people or that there are no queer police officers. What that fundamental philosophical tension does mean is that the police will always been on the tail-end of queer acceptance as the sort of people attracted to that work aren't the most gay-friendly and should be watched closely because they are supposed to work for all of us to keep peace.

And Harris, after what I thought was some first-class rainbow-lipstick-on-pig smearing, is now learning first-hand about that fundamental tension:

In May, a second gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered liaison, Patricia Powell, was hired. Harris, the APD said, was on medical leave.

Last Wednesday, she was effectively replaced when the APD announced the promotion of Ofc. Brian Sharp to assist Powell in improving relations with the gay community. As for Harris -- still on leave, according to APD spokesman Carlos Campos.

But Harris, 37, said she was cleared to return to work six months ago, even though she had just suffered a seizure -- her second in less than a year.

The second seizure -- stress-related, her doctor says -- followed a "really nasty, derogatory comment" by a civilian colleague whom Harris doesn't want to identify. She said she tried to file a complaint with the department's Office of Professional Standards but was told to go home.

That was April 15. Harris said she hasn't been allowed to return and hasn't received a paycheck since June. Friends and supporters will hold a benefit concert for Harris 3 p.m. Saturday at the Power Center, located at 2133 Hills Ave. in Atlanta.

She suspects her superiors are trying to protect the colleague who, Harris alleges, made the derogatory remark about her sexuality.

Apparently they don't want one of those people who'll rock the boat even slightly for queer people. Powell should watch her tongue if she wants to keep her job.

Harris took her case to the Atlanta Citizens Review Board, the same police accountability group that found that officers acted wrongly in their raid of the Atlanta Eagle but didn't have much power to do anything about it. It turns out the board doesn't have jurisdiction over complaints like Harris's.

Harris says she just wants to work again:

"I know I won't be the GLBT liaison, but I don't care. I just want to work," she said.

In America's new economy (with a 10%+ unemployment rate and few resources for the unemployed), no one can blame her for wanting a job. She's considering legal action, which makes one wonder if she still believes that these are all good people who work at the Atlanta Police Department by virtue of her knowing them.


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Officer Harris most certainly wore her uniform in the gay pride parade. I was there, and thanked her for it.

The GLBT community wasn't nearly as divided over her involvement in the parade as you suggest. A small group of vocal protesters, however, whipped the media into a frenzy over the situation. Those same protesters also stripped to their underwear on the corner of 10th and Piedmont in some sort of unintelligible civil action, to give you an idea of both their boneheaded thinking and idiot savant media savvy.

Clearly the officers acted unprofessionally and engaged in name calling during the raid of the Eagle, the origin of all the controversy. Having been a regular at the Eagle during their infamous Thursday night public sex events, I can assure you it was only a matter of time before the law intervened, however it was done.

Many of us wondered why, of all issues, the raid of a bar hosting public sex was lifted up as an affront to our community. I mean, we're now protecting gay marriage, ENDA, and sucking dick by the pool table? When the bar owners, who knowingly allowed sex in their bar and then comically denied it, were made honorary Grand Marshals of gay pride, I just about lost my lunch.

But to your point, yeah, it sucks that the cops are such bullies and jerks sometimes.

Wow, what a Earl Hickey moment! Second time today that I've seen Karma in action...

I was one of the people Chief Pennington asked to select the next LGBT Liaison and it was our group who picked Officer Harris at that time. She has always been a friend of mine.

I remember teaching her a bit more about trans issues shortly after she started the job, and I explained the difference between gender identity and gender expression. After that, I asked her how she identified and she said, "As a man." Later, she found out that she has XY chromosomes.

I did an interview with her at last year's Pride and asked her about the uniform. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Z_ta7vyrM She didn't want to have the Eagle's float behind her during the interview. During that time, I was torn between our friendship and how she handled the Eagle raid. I also have the video of what she said at the rally in front of City Hall, shortly after the raid. Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibEi9g-14PQ

I was one of the people Chief Pennington asked to select the next LGBT Liaison and it was our group who picked Officer Harris at that time. She has always been a friend of mine.

I remember teaching her a bit more about trans issues shortly after she started the job, and I explained the difference between gender identity and gender expression. After that, I asked her how she identified and she said, "As a man." Later, she found out that she has XY chromosomes.

I did an interview with her at last year's Pride and asked her about the uniform. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Z_ta7vyrM She didn't want to have the Eagle's float behind her during the interview. During that time, I was torn between our friendship and how she handled the Eagle raid. I also have the video of what she said at the rally in front of City Hall, shortly after the raid. Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibEi9g-14PQ

I'm sure the APD is full of upstanding cops who'd never think of punching a queer. Or keeping the lesbian from filing a complaint.

But I don't know those girls or guys so I'll keep my opinion to myself. ;)

I don't want to start a fight, but it seems to me that this whole article and the responses are weirdly irrelevant and almost insulting to Officer Harris. Perhaps you both (Alex and Monica) need to reconnect with her.

About a month ago I attended Southern Comfort outside Atlanta. Officer Harris was on the program and conducted a 90 minute Q/A discussion of her experiences as an intersex bisexual transgender police officer handling the LGBT liaison slot for many years through and including the infamous Eagle raid.

What you are missing is the understanding that Officer Harris had to deal with a conflict between her duty as a human being and the false duty being projected on her by the Atlanta PD to join in a conspiracy of lies to protect the criminal behavior of members of the force and a clique of bigoted psudo-christian conspirators in police management who were personally responsible for the Eagle raid.

I would not attempt to portray the horrific abuse Officer Harris suffered at the hands of this evil clique that appears to lie at the heart of and enjoy control over much Atlanta city government. I am merely providing my reactions to the situation and hope that Officer Harris will feel able to make her side of the story more broadly known.

I feel this is a very important story with national implications and needs to be addressed by someone who is prepared to got beyond the silly uniform question and help to relieve the unjustified pain that has been heaped on this remarkable woman.

I called Dani last night and told her about this article. She read it while I waited on the phone. She says it is full of inaccuracies, especially the quote toward the end. She didn't say that. Maybe Alex would do better reaching out to her directly.