After the police raid on Atlanta's Eagle gay bar last year, where people were systematically 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.