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Photos: New class of SAPD cadets get GLBT awareness training
Photography by Antonia Padilla, QSanAntonio.com, July 19, 2011
Since 2007, local activists have conducted GLBT awareness training at the San Antonio Police Academy. The most recent session was held on Tuesday, July 19. The training on that day was given by Naomi Brown, Anna Castro, Bill Goodman, Monica Guerrero, Julia DeGrace and Antonia Padilla. The classes were approved four years ago by Police Chief William McManus and have continued on a regular basis with each new class of cadets.

GLBT activists appointed to SAPD Internal Affairs advisory board
QSanAntonio.com, December 17, 2010

Two GLBT activists were among 14 citizens appointed, by a December 16 vote of the San Antonio City Council, to become a part of the Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Action Board.

Those who serve on the board hear the findings and results of SAPD Internal Affairs investigations and recommend discipline for officers to the Police Chief.

The appointment of the citizen’s board comes as a provision of a new contract the city sealed with the San Antonio Police Officer’s Association last May. The agreement includes a provision to have the City Council appoint up to fourteen individuals who serve on the board for a two-year period.

The new arrangement equalizes the number of citizens and officers who hear the internal affairs cases and have the ability to question officers and citizens making the complaints.

The two GLBT activists, Dee Villlarubia and Ruby Krebs, join Bill Rooney, Joe Candia, Jay Johnson, Eleanor Sprowl, Glenda Raichlen, Frank Anaya, Fredrick Williams, Jay Perry, Marcella DeNice, Sonia Elizondo, Claude Hester and Charles Hood on the citizen’s board.

The new appointees, who serve seven at a time, will hear disciplinary cases with seven uniformed officers selected by the Police Chief. The Police Department will rotate the citizen and police board participants every 180 days.

Under the provisions of the new contract, the SAPOA could not strike board candidates names before City Council consideration. However, Greg Jefferson, reporting for PlazaDeArmasTx.com, says the SAPOA tried to lobby for the exclusion of Ruby Krebs, who is a transgender woman. (Click here for related story.)

Krebs is a political activist who worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008. She has been the Democratic precinct chair for downtown San Antonio. In 2009, she became the first transgender woman in San Antonio to run for City Council (District 1). She also serves on the board of the Stonewall Democrats and was previously the president of the San Antonio Gender Association. Krebs is no stranger to police business having served on the SAPD Chief's Advisory Board reviewing the Matrix departmental study.

Villarubia is a longtime GLBT activist who is currently the Deputy Chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party, the first lesbian to hold that office. She is one of the original founders of the Stonewall Democrats. Last year, Villarubia created the Gender and Walls Panel Discussion held at Trinity University. In November 2007, her work with the Police Chief resulted in a free speech First Amendment exemption for the annual Gay Pride Parade. As a human and civil rights activist she was instrumental in helping the Police Executive Research Forum organize the Citizen Advisory Action Board resulting in the addition of women.

Appointees for the board applied through the Office of the City Clerk’s web site. They had to get a criminal background check and were interviewed by a four-person panel consisting of Assistant City Manager Erik Walsh, Police Chief William McManus, First Assistant City Attorney Martha Sepeda, and Deputy Police Chief Tony Muro.

Police Chief apologizes to GLBT community for conduct of officer
QSanAntonio.com, February 27, 2010

Police Chief William McManus has apologized to the GLBT community for the incident involving the alleged rape of a transgender person by SAPD Officer Craig Nash. (See related links below.)

In a Friday morning telephone call made to Dr. J. Lynne Armstrong, who is a member of the Peace Officer’s Training Committee, the Chief told Armstrong that he wanted to extend his apologies for the incident to the entire community.

The Peace Officer’s Training Committee is a group of local GLBT activists who serve as faculty for GLBT sensitivity training given at the San Antonio Police Academy. Armstrong is one of the original members of the group.

During a press conference on Friday morning McManus said, "This is a slap in the face to every good police officer, to every command officer, to the public and to the victim. This about as hard a slap in the face as you can get. And it’s angry and its frustrating and I’m here to say that we will not tolerate this."

McManus told Armstrong that there will be a 15-day period during which an investigation will be conducted and that if the victim’s account is found to be valid, most likely Nash will be fired.

Ruby Krebs, President of the San Antonio Gender Association, a support group for transgender people, said in a press release on Friday, "The San Antonio Gender Association is saddened by the news of yet another story of police violence against our citizens. SAGA works to support the advancement of the transgender community. SAGA members work with law enforcement to help in their contact with the transgender community so as to prevent this kind of incident from happening."

SAPD officer accused in sexual assault
San Antonio Express-News, February 27, 2010
A San Antonio police officer was arrested Thursday night after a transgendered man accused him of raping him while the officer was on duty, authorities said. Officer Craig Nash has been charged with sexual assault and official oppression. He was released from Bexar County Jail after posting a $27,500 bond.

SAPD officer charged with sex assault
KSAT12.com, February 26, 2010
A San Antonio police officer sexually assaulted a man while he was on duty, an affidavit states.

San Antonio police officer charged with sexually assaulting transgender man
WOAI-TV, February 26, 2010
A San Antonio Police officer was arrested and is accused of sexually assaulting a transgender man. The man claims officer Craig Nash picked him just south of Downtown early Thursday morning, handcuffed him, and told him to lay down in the back seat of a patrol car.

SAPD officer cuffed, raped transgender victim in patrol car
KENS5.com, February 26, 2010
San Antonio police arrested an officer from within their own ranks Thursday night. Craig Nash was booked on charges of sexual assault and official oppression. According to an arrest warrant, Nash is accused of raping a transgendered person during his shift Thursday morning.


Activists conduct gay sensitivity training at SAPD Academy
QSanAntonio.com, September 4, 2009

Thirty-seven San Antonio Police Academy cadets were present on September 3 for a morning of sensitivity training conducted by local GLBT activists. The class is the latest in a series offered over the past two-and-a-half years at the Academy.

Classes consist of several GLBT topics each presented by a member of the Peace Officer’s Liaison Committee. This latest class was taught by Rev. Mick Hinson of the Metropolitan Community Church; Roberto Flores and Dr. Lynne Armstrong from the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio; Attorney Bill Goodman; Elizabeth Schleigh and Gayl Newton of the Human Rights Campaign; and Julia DeGrace from the San Antonio Gender Association.

The September 3 class included a moment of silence for James Lee Whitehead and for Officer William Karmen who accidentally killed Whitehead on August 31 when he shot at the victim’s assailant.

After the individual presentations are concluded, instructors and students break down into smaller groups for conversation and interaction. Instructors say that often during those sessions cadets sometimes reveal that they have family members or friends who are GLBT. Feelings are expressed pro and con.

The Peace Officers Liaison Committee was organized under the sponsorship of the Stonewall Democrats in 2006 when Police Chief William McManus endorsed the idea of sensitivity training for cadets. Since that time the Committee has expanded its membership and is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization separate from Stonewall.

The Committee also works with the SAPD’s GLBT liaison, Deputy Chief Jose Banales, when incidents involving GLBT citizens occur. Deputy Banales plans to meet with the Committee during September.

Roberto Flores, one of the trainers, says the Committee is working with SAPD officials in planning sensitivity training classes for senior officers. The hope is that those sessions will be conducted early next year.

Gay tourist assaulted by cab driver then arrested by SAPD
QSanAntonio.com, October 3, 2008
A gay tourist in town for Fiesta Week last April has told QSanAntonio a harrowing story of being assaulted by a cab driver who kept calling him a "faggot" as he beat him. Frank Baez, a 40-year-old hospital administrator who lives in Los Angeles, had his leg seriously injured, was mocked by police on the scene, and in the end, arrested because officers incorrectly assumed he initiated the assault.

Agreement will put Park Police under command of SAPD
QSanAntonio, July 26, 2008

An agreement reached on July 23 would transfer authority over the Park Police and the Airport Police to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus. City Manager Sheryl Sculley will present the proposal to the City Council Public Safety Committee on August 13. The move will no doubt be viewed in the GLBT community as positive development given the Park Police’s reputation for the entrapment and physical abuse of gay men in recent years.

Under the new agreement, officers with the Park Police and the Airport Police will come under the command of Chief McManus but will retain their specialized missions. They would also continue to receive the same benefits and be represented by the same unions. All Park and Airport policemen will retain their jobs.

For the GLBT community the change in leadership at the Park Police means that the community can now bring any grievances directly to Chief McManus, who since his arrival in San Antonio, has proved he is sensitive to gay issues. Presently, the Park Police report to the Director of Parks and Recreation.

In years past, the Park Police became known for their raids on local parks where they arrested gay men, sometimes unjustly, for public sex. Some of those arrested reported being beaten and kicked and otherwise roughed up by arresting officers.

In 2005, Amnesty International released a report criticizing the treatment of GLBT citizens by the SAPD, the Bexar County Jail and the Park Police. Of the three law enforcement agencies cited in the report, the Park Police seemed the most agressive in their treatment of gay men. (Click here for related story.)

Since the release of the Amnesty International report, the number of arrests for lewdness and indecent exposure dropped by more than half, indicating the Park Police rethought their practice of entrapping gay men after it was made public.

According to Park Police statistics published on July 24, 2008 in the San Antonio Express-News, there were 125 arrests in 2005 for public lewdness and indecent exposure. In 2006, that number dropped to 56 and in 2007 the number was 52. However, arrests made for "other offenses" went from 44 in 2005 to 287 in 2007.

The San Antonio Police Department, under the command of Chief McManus, has made many positive strides in its relations with the GLBT community. The Chief and his representatives have met with activists and gay bar owners, eschewed the entrapment of gay men, and instituted GLBT sensitivity training at the Police Academy.

Many in the community see the new command structure as an indication that the Park Police will now be guided by the SAPD’s more tolerant policies.

SAPD appoints a new GLBT liaison
QSanAntonio, May 21, 2008

San Antonio Police Department spokesman Sgt. Gabe Trevino confirmed to QSanAntonio on May 20 that Chief William McManus has appointed a new liaison for the GLBT community. Captain Jose Banales has been tapped to be the point-person within the SAPD who will help GLBT citizens address problems and concerns they may have with their interactions with local police.

Captain Banales is replacing Captain Larry Birney who is retiring and who for the last two years served as the GLBT liaison. Captain Birney was appointed in 2004 after a Amnesty International report criticized the SAPD for its treatment of GLBT citizens. Since then the SAPD’s relations with the GLBT community have steadily improved.

Banales graduated from the SAPD Academy in 1983, his first assignment was in the West Service Area of the Patrol Division. Over the years Captain Banales rose through the ranks and is currently the Commander of the Major Crimes Section of the Criminal Investigation Section. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 179th Session, and has a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree from Texas State University with an emphasis in Criminal Justice Management.

In a telephone call to QSanAntonio, Captain Banales said he was looking forward to working with the GLBT community. He said that he would try to work on eradicating any negative perceptions the community might have with the police. He also said he was anticipating meeting community activists and speaking before GLBT groups.

Captain Banales told QSanAntonio that he could be reached at the following telephone number: 210-207-7635.

Analysis: Merging Park Police with SAPD may be good for S.A. gays
By Sam Sanchez, QSanAntonio, May 15, 2008

On May 13, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus announced that he would like to merge the Park Police and the Airport Police into a single department with the SAPD. The chief’s proposal may have an upside for gays in San Antonio considering the Park Police’s checkered reputation with this segment of the population.

In years past, the Park Police became known for their raids on local parks where they arrested gay men, sometimes unjustly, for public sex. Some of those arrested reported being beaten and kicked and otherwise roughed up by the Park Police.

There were incidents when Park Police would bring local television reporters with them to photograph the stings and give the media the names those arrested. We all remember the "Perverts in the Park" reports aired on KENS-TV. A man committed suicide after he was identified in one such story published in the San Antonio Express-News.

In 2005, Amnesty International released a report criticizing the treatment of GLBT citizens by the SAPD, the Bexar County Jail and the Park Police. Of the three law enforcement agencies cited in the report, the Park Police seemed the most out of control.

Amnesty International found a pattern of Park Police officers engaging in entrapment techniques, soliciting and inviting prohibited conduct. Local GLBT activists had expressed concern about such practices for years before the report brought the abuse to light.

Since the Amnesty International report was made public, the Park Police have eased off on the frequency and intensity of their stings. Nevertheless, bringing the Park Police into the SAPD represents a sensible approach to reining in a maverick agency.

The San Antonio Police, under the command of Chief William McManus, have made many positive strides in their relations with the GLBT community. They have met with activists and gay bar owners, eschewed the entrapment of gay men, and instituted GLBT sensitivity training at the Police Academy. In a show of his determination to improve the department’s image with the community, Chief McManus marched in the last year’s Gay Pride Parade.

By becoming a part of the SAPD, the Park Police would benefit from Chief McManus’ efforts to police our city with a fair and even approach. Having all of our law enforcement agencies under the same enlightened leadership would be a good thing for all of San Antonio’s citizens.

Assistant SAPD Chief addresses Stonewall Dems
QSanAntonio, May 2, 2008

Newly appointed Assistant Police Chief Geraldine Garcia addressed the members of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio at their monthly meeting on May 19. Her appearance comes on the heels of her promotion in April, making her the first woman to hold such a high rank in the San Antonio Police Department.

Garcia replaced former Assistant Chief Rudy Gonzales who was demoted as a result of alleged relationships with a prostitute and a cocaine trafficking suspect, and amid allegations that he used his position to gain entrance to a sold-out Final Four basketball game for free.

Assistant Chief Garcia joined the SAPD in 1982, and previously served as Deputy Chief of the Services & Support Division since 2006. In an article in the San Antonio Express-News announcing her promotion, Police Chief William McManus said of Garcia, "It's a very monumental thing for her to have accomplished, but she has proven herself over and over again." Garcia holds a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education from Wayland Baptist University, as well as a Master of Science in Justice Policy from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

At her appearance before Stonewall members, dressed in her police uniform, the Assistant Chief revealed herself to be a soft-spoken mother of two who believes that peace in the community comes from "restraint and respect." "We are all individuals and none of us wants to be mistreated," she said.

To prepare for her Stonewall appearance, Garcia says she did a bit of research about the 1968 Stonewall riots and the Stonewall Democrats and dutifully recounted to the group what she had learned. While not yet fully conversant with local GLBT concerns, the Assistant Chief was receptive to the group’s questions and comments.

Garcia was happy to discuss diversity training for seasoned officers, the incarceration of transgender individuals with the general jail population, and the merger of the Park Police into the SAPD. While she had no concrete solutions, she took notes and promised to follow up on all of the concerns voiced by Stonewall members.

Most significantly, Assistant Chief Garcia said that thanks to Police Chief William McManus, she represented the "new face of the SAPD," where diversity seems to be the order of the day.


SAPD community outreach includes recruiting gays, minorities
QSanAntonio, April 11, 2008

Beginning this weekend, the San Antonio Police Department launches an outreach program to recruit more minorities including blacks, Asians and gays. The effort begins on Saturday, April 12 with a San Antonio Police Career Fair to be held at the Police Academy.

Former City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo told QSanAntonio that her contacts at the Police department have asked if she would help get word of their recruiting efforts out to the GLBT community. The original impetus for the program was a federal grant from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services that focuses on innovative hiring practices.

"We initiated a process that was to have focused on the target groups," Capt. Larry Birney, the SAPD’s GLBT liaison, told QSanAntonio last year.

Birney said that beyond normal job fairs, SAPD recruiters will reach out to appropriate student organizations at colleges and universities to forge relationships that will encourage minority graduates to apply. "We want them to know that the SAPD will provide a welcoming environment."

The Police department has made many positive strides in improving its relationship with the GLBT community. Last year, it began allowing GLBT sensitivity training at the Police Academy, with classes taught by local activists. This training is now a regular part of the curriculum.

The San Antonio Police Career Fair, Saturday April 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Police Academy, 12200 S.E. Loop 410. Additionally, the Police Department will be accepting applications from April 12 to May 9, 2008. For more information call 210-207-6270 or go to www.sanantonio.gov/sapd.

Police Chief under fire by anti-gay "Christian" zealots (Click for complete coverage)
QSanAntonio, July 31, 2007

A group of anti-gay "Christian" zealots plans to speak before the San Antonio City Council on Thursday, August 2 to express their displeasure to the Mayor and City Council regarding Police Chief William McManus’ participation as grand marshal in the S.A. Gay Pride Parade on July 2. The protest is being staged by the same KSLR AM "Christian" radio talk show host who last year organized the three H-E-B pickets and the failed boycott of that grocery chain.

Police Chief McManus is Grand Marshall for Pride Parade
QSanAntonio, June 26, 2007

QSanAntonio learned on June 26 that San Antonio Police Department’s Chief William McManus will be the Grand Marshall of the Gay Pride San Antonio Parade. The appearance by Chief McManus marks a new era of cooperation between the SAPD and the GLBT community. Recently the department announced that it would begin offering GLBT sensitivity training and also reach out to recruit more gay officers. (See story below.)

SAPD initiates gay sensitivity training and recruitment
QSanAntonio, June 22, 2007

Captain Larry Birney, the San Antonio Police Department’s GLBT liaison and director of the Police Academy, has confirmed to QSanAntonio that the department will begin offering gay sensitivity training and also will launch an outreach program to recruit more minorities including blacks, Asians and gays. These new initiatives mark a positive milestone in the SAPD’s sometimes-rocky relationship with the GLBT community in years past. (Click here for related story.)

On August 9, members of the Peace Officers Liaison Committee, a group of GLBT activists, will offer a sensitivity training class to seasoned officers as part of the SAPD’s career development program. The class will be 8 hours long and will feature a multi-racial roster of about a dozen different speakers from the GLBT community including mental health professionals, ministers and activists among others. Classes designed for cadets will be offered later in the year.

"As far as we know, this type of training class, with members of the GLBT community teaching the course, will be unique to the SAPD," said Travis Peterson, the Liaison Committee’s chairman. Peterson, a psychotherapist, previously worked with a group who designed a GLBT curriculum that is still used by the Houston Police Department. The other members of the committee are Lynne Armstrong, Roberto Flores and Marsha Warren.

The Liaison Committee was formed last October under the aegis of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio. Since that time they have been meeting with supervisors from the Police Academy with the goal of developing a curriculum that teaches police to be more sensitive to GLBT issues.

In another positive development, Captain Birney told QSanAntonio that the SAPD would begin to reach out to the black, Asian and gay communities in hopes of recruiting new cadets. The original impetus for the program was a federal grant from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services that focused on innovative hiring practices. "We initiated a process that was to have focused on the target groups," said Birney "but later we learned that the grant was designed as a research process and not an actual go out and do the job activity. However, this will not stop us from moving forward."

Birney says that beyond normal job fairs, SAPD recruiters will reach out to appropriate student organizations at colleges and universities to forge relationships that will encourage minority graduates to apply. "We want them to know that the SAPD will provide a welcoming environment," said Birney.

Captain Birney credits Police Chief William McManus with the efforts to reach out and improve the SAPD’s relation with gays. Peterson echoes that sentiment. "It’s fortunate for the GLBT community that Chief McManus fosters a positive attitude toward all citizens of San Antonio and is serious about the training of SAPD officers to meet the needs of all the city’s communities."

GLBT activists attend Town Hall meeting on police brutality
QSanAntonio, January 30, 2007

GLBT activists were present at a January 29 Town Hall meeting with Police Chief William McManus organized by San Antonio Communities Organized Against Police Abuse (COPA) at the Claude Black Community Center on the city’s East Side. The meeting featured testimony by several victims of alleged police brutality.

A coalition of several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Neighbors First Alliance and the League of United Latin American Citizen were present at the meeting. GLBT organizations present included representatives from the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, QSanAntonio, and the Peace Officer’s Liaison Committee, a group that is working with the San Antonio Police Academy on issues regarding GLBT sensitivity training.

The highlight of the meeting featured citizens describing situations where police used excessive or deadly force. Joseph Fennell, a young black man, described being grazed by a policeman’s bullet when he was mistakenly identified as a thief. Josephine Martinez tearfully recounted how police had entered her home and shot her son dead. Tamie Ximiness sobbed as she told the audience about being roughed up by police in a grocery store parking lot.

Sam Sanchez, publisher of QSanAntonio.com addressed the meeting briefly to describe how the GLBT community has been dealing with the same issues. He cited the 2005 Amnesty International report that described police brutality against GLBT citizens, the appointment of Captain Larry Birney as the SAPD’s GLBT liaison and the formation of the Peace Officer’s Liaison Committee.

COPA made several demands to Chief McManus. These included hiring an outside agency to conduct sensitivity training; making the internal affairs process less intimidating; giving monthly reports on police abuse, racial profiling and the use of stun guns; and giving mandatory drug testing to police officers involved in injuring or killing residents.

McManus answered the demands in a highly scripted response that was in keeping with meeting’s structure which allowed little or no spontaneous dialog. His answers seemed to leave many in the room unsatisfied.

After the meeting McManus told reporters that he did not like how the meeting was organized. He said he would have preferred to be able to respond to each of the citizens who spoke on a case by case basis. Organizers say the Town Hall was a first step and they plan many more meetings with the police.


Gay bar owners and police meet to iron out issues
QSanAntonio, November 1, 2006

Members of the San Antonio Police, the San Antonio Park Police and the San Antonio College Police met with bar owners and members of the GLBT community at the Saint on October 31 to discuss the crime that persists in the area around the bars on North Main Avenue. The meeting was notable in that of the 35 people in attendance, almost half were policemen who patrol the neighborhood.

The heavy police presence at the meeting included: Chief of Police William McManus; Captain Larry Birney, the SAPD’s GLBT liaison; Steven W. Baum, Chief of the San Antonio Park Police; and Corporal Leonardo Nieves of the San Antonio College police. City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo moderated the meeting. Others in attendance were the owners of the Saint, Heat, Pegasus and Luther’s restaurant; the members of the Peace Officers Liaison Committee; QSanAntonio; and Rev. Kevin Downer of MCC San Antonio.

The meeting was the second held between police and North Main Avenue bar owners. The first meeting held on September 12, dealt with issues that affect San Antonio’s GLBT community at large such as profiling and harassment. (See related story.) The second meeting saw few such complaints and the discussion dwelt more on the difficulty of policing and doing business in a neighborhood that attracts prostitution, drug dealing, burglary and loitering.

One troubled area in the neighborhood includes the San Antonio College parking lots, located across Main Avenue from the bars, where the SAC police must contend with car burglaries and individuals having sex in parked autos. Another hot spot is Crockett Park that adjoins the block where the bars are located. The park is often active with transgender prostitutes, rent boys and the johns who seek them out. The San Antonio Park Police are responsible for policing that area. Loitering and illegal activities also abound on Ogden Street that runs directly behind and east of the bars.

Police officers and bar owners were able to openly air their individual grievances and discuss ways to work together to reduce crime and make it less intimidating for bar patrons who see the heavy police presence as a negative. Some of the points made by police include the need for better security by the bars and more communication with police commanders. Bar owners for their part welcome the police but say that cops on foot patrol or bicycles are better for business than patrol cars parked around the neighborhood or in front of bars.

The meeting was most constructive because it was probably the first time that bar owners, neighborhood police officers and their commanders were able to sit down and talk. Thanks to the efforts of Captain Birney and Councilwoman Guajardo the face to face discussion that ensued, while bumpy at times, gave all parties a better idea about how to attack the problems that plague the neighborhood.

Committee works with SAPD on gay issues
QSanAntonio, October 21, 2006

One year ago, Amnesty International released a report that offered a highly critical assessment of the treatment of GLBT citizens by the San Antonio Police Department, the San Antonio Park Police and the Bexar County Jail. (See related story.) Now, with hopes of averting such incidents, a newly formed group is working with the law enforcement officials to address the needs and concerns of San Antonio’s GLBT community.

The Peace Officers Liaison Committee (POLC) is a group of four local GLBT activists who initially organized under the aegis of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio. During the last two of months the committee has met with supervisors from the San Antonio Police Academy with the goal of developing a curriculum that teaches cadets to be more sensitive to GLBT issues.

The formation of the POLC occured this summer after Police Chief William McManus and Captain Larry Birney, the SAPD’s GLBT liaison, spoke at meetings of the Stonewall Democrats. During those sessions, Stonewall member Travis L. Peterson asked McManus and Birney if the police department would permit local activists to observe and review the Police Academy’s GLBT sensitivity training. Both men agreed. Another Stonewall member, City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo, followed up with the Police Department and put them in direct contact with Peterson.

A few years ago, Peterson, a psychotherapist and recent transplant to San Antonio, worked with a group who designed and delivered a GLBT curriculum to the Houston Police Department. "The activists stepped forward after a gay man was murdered coming out of a local bar," says Peterson, "His death helped rally the community." The Houston Police still use that curriculum.

Before meeting with San Antonio Police, Peterson recruited others to join his then unnamed committee. The POLC now consists of Peterson, Stonewall board members Roberto Flores and Lynne Armstrong, and Marsha Warren, treasurer and board member of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio.

The committee has had two meetings with the SAPD. The first meeting was with officials from the Police Academy and the second was convened so the committee could observe GLBT sensitivity training being given to department supervisors. A third meeting is scheduled to observe cadets receiving the training. After that the committee will review the curriculum and make its recommendations.

Peterson says that there are three points that must be stressed. The first is that sodomy is no longer illegal since the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence vs. Texas. The second is that cadets need to understand the meaning of homophobia. And the third is the prevention of homophobic treatment of GLBT citizens by law enforcement.

Aside from working on Police Academy training, the committee also aims to work with the GLBT community on other police related matters. In September, the committee was present at a meeting with Chief McManus, Captain Birney and owners of the gay bars along the 1400 block of North Main Street. Club owners complained that police were coming into the neighborhood with tow trucks, ticketing parked cars, citing people for jay walking, blocking intersections with patrol cars, and detaining drag performers accusing them of prostitution. (See next story below.) A follow-up meeting is scheduled for next week.

Peterson says that the POLC hopes to eventually address sensitivity issues with the San Antonio Park Police and the Bexar County jail, both of which operate independently of the SAPD and both of which have tarnished reputations in their dealings with GLBT citizens.

For more information about the Police Officers Liaison Committee contact Travis Perterson at 210-323-9779.

Activists and club owners address concerns at meeting with SAPD brass
QSanAntonio, September 15, 2006

Over 20 community activists and gay club owners met with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and GLBT liaison Captain Larry Birney to address concerns about police-related activity in the area around the 1400 block of North Main Street.

The September 12 meeting was held at the Saint. John Downum, proprietor of the Saint, District 7 Councilwoman Elena Guajardo, and Martin Herrera, an aide to District 1 Councilman Roger Flores, organized the gathering.

Speaking before the group, Downum said he was prompted to call for the meeting after hearing of the arrest of Edward Castillo, a gay man who on July 20 was pulled over in his car by police after leaving the Saint. Castillo was handcuffed and arrested for drunk driving, had his car searched and towed by police, then was taken to police headquarters only to be released when a Breathalyzer test proved he was not drunk. After his arrest Castillo launched a widespread email campaign to inform the community and city officials about his experience. (See related story)

Castillo’s arrest, said club owners, was the latest example of what seems like ongoing harassment of club patrons by police. In addition to pulling over patrons driving on North Main Street, club owners described witnessing police swooping into the neighborhood with tow trucks, ticketing parked cars, citing people for jay walking, blocking intersections with patrol cars, and detaining drag performers accusing them of prostitution. More than anything the complaints seemed to focus on the police’s sometimes brusque and insensitive treatment of GLBT citizens.

On the other hand, club owners explained they realize a police presence is necessary in a neighborhood where loitering, prostitution, drug dealing, public sex in nearby Crockett Park and other crimes are a problem. They don’t want the police to stay away; they just want them to be more mindful of how they treat club patrons.

According to police, the Tobin Hill neighborhood, which includes the strip along North Main where the clubs are located, has been identified as a "high crime" area that gets special attention from the department’s Crime Response Unit initiative. This initiative places up to 30 officers in a small geographical area at any one time. This explains why on some nights there seems to be a more than average amount of police patrol cars in the area.

In responding to club owners’ concerns, Captain Birney said he offered no excuses for the patrolmen’s behavior toward GLBT citizens. He emphasized that all citizens should expect proper treatment from the police and that the complaints he heard at the meeting were not unique to the gay community. "Sometimes," he said, " a few words from me can make a difference. When it doesn’t I refer the case to Internal Affairs."

The Captain suggested that the biggest problem he could see with the bars on North Main Street was a lack of communication between the department and the club owners. "We should make club owners aware when we have special patrols in the area," he said. He also agreed with a suggestion that club owners be allowed to meet with the patrolmen who work in the neighborhood.

The overall tone of the hour-and-a-half meeting was considerate and constructive. Councilwoman Guajardo served as moderator and made sure that all the parties involved had a chance to speak. Toward the end of the meeting, Chief McManus, who arrived late, spoke to the group saying that he was confident that Captain Birney would follow up on all of their concerns. The meeting adjourned with Guajardo saying that a follow up meeting would be scheduled to continue the discussion with neighborhood patrol officers in attendance.

Even though the meeting was convened to discuss club-related concerns, those attending included activists from throughout San Antonio’s GLBT community. In addition to owners and managers from The Saint, The Annex, Heat, and Pegasus, the meeting included individuals from the Stonewall Democrats, MCC San Antonio, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte’s office, QSanAntonio, PrideFest, and members of a GLBT task force that has been working on sensitivity training at the Police Academy.

Gay man alleges police harassment after leaving the Saint
QSanAntonio, July 25, 2006

It was 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 20. Edward Castillo was in his white Chevy Cavalier convertible turning onto North Main Street on his way home after a quick stop at the Saint where he says he had a Red Bull, a cocktail and a diet Coke. Before he could travel less than half a block, Castillo was pulled over by SAPD Officer Joe Rios for "driving too close to the curb."

During the next two-and-a-half hours Castillo, a 40-year-old Navy veteran, would be mistakenly accused of driving under the influence. His car would be searched and towed away by the police. He would be handcuffed and taken to the police station where, after two Breathalyzer tests, it would be determined that his blood alcohol level was well below the legal limit.

In the end, Castillo was sent home with a ticket for driving without proof of insurance (he says he has insurance but was not allowed to call his insurer to provide verbal proof), and with a bill for over $100 to get his car out of the impound lot.

Standing outside the police station at around 3:00 a.m. after his release, Castillo, now on foot, went over the events of the evening in his mind to try and determine the reason behind his unfortunate experience. "The first thing Officer Rios asked me was where I had been," he recalls. "I told him the Saint."

Castillo firmly believes he was stopped because Officer Rios assumed he was gay. "There was no reason for Officer Rios to pull me over," he says. "It’s a travesty when one considers the time and money expended on my alleged DUI."

After learning of the incident, John Downum, owner of the Saint, said that he had heard talk recently of others drivers with similar experiences but did not have any details. He said that the bars along North Main Street had requested help from the SAPD in discouraging hustlers from loitering on the sidewalks in front of the clubs. Castillo reports that there were several police cars patrolling the area when he left the Saint that night.

It will be hard to prove that Castillo’s experience was police harassment since it is his word against that of a police officer. However there are several disturbing facts that leave questions about Officer Rios’ intent. There’s the false accusation of drunk driving. The extensive search and towing of the car. The humiliating experience of being arrested and taken in handcuffs to the police station. And, once he was at the police station, Castillo says that Officer Rios twice told him that he did not have to take the Breathalyzer. "I knew I would pass," says Castillo, "and I insisted on taking the test."

Castillo’s case has come to the attention of police officials including Chief William McManus and Captain Larry Birney, the SAPD’s GLBT liaison. In an email to QSanAntonio, Captain Birney said he had requested copies all the reports in Castillo’s case. "Please give us an opportunity to look into what happened and why and we will address it," he wrote.

SAPD responds to harassment complaint
QSanAntonio, July 25, 2006

Following is the text of an email sent by Captain Larry Birney, the SAPD's GLBT liaison, to some City Council members, the owner of the Saint and to Chief McManus. Captain Birney responds to allegations that the SAPD harassed a gay man (Edward Castillo -- see previous story) outside the Saint on Thursday, July 20.

I am fully aware of the incident involving Mr. Edward Castillo. I have spoken with Mr. Castillo at length on the telephone and I believe we have cleared the air on some of the issues he is concerned with. It is important to note that Mr. Castillo clearly states that at the time of the detainment no remarks of any type were made by any police officer in relation to his sexual orientation or anything in relation to the gay community. The only connection was the general proximity to some of the gay clubs.

We have forwarded Mr. Castillo's original complaint to the Internal Affairs Unit and Mr. Castillo has already been invited to visit with them over the incident. The only question I can see in relation to the officers conduct centers on his original probable cause to stop Mr. Castillo. Other than that it appears from my conversation with Mr. Castillo and reading the officer's report is that all applicable rules and regulations dealing with DUI or DWI were complied with. Never-the-less a full investigation will be conducted.

On a side note it appears there is some concern over recent enforcement efforts in the area of the clubs on Main Avenue. It is important that we understand that these efforts are occurring in identified high crime areas across the city as part of the departments Crime Response Unit initiative. This initiative places up to 30 officers in a small geographical area at any one time.

As you are well aware we have seen increases in robbery of individuals especially around night club locations and the San Pedro, Main Ave, McCullough areas located north of IH35 and south of Hildebrand are target areas. Hence we can expect to see increased activity off and on in this area at least for the next couple of months.

New SAPD Chief has a fresh perspective
QSanAntonio, June 20, 2006

San Antonio’s new Police Chief, William McManus, spoke before a standing room only crowd of GLBT citizens attending the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio meeting on June 19. Arriving at the meeting dressed like he just came off the jogging track in a pair of shorts, a tee shirt and baseball cap, it was clear that Chief McManus was not one to stand on ceremony.

McManus’ speech was equally informal. His initial anecdote described his days on the Washington, DC police force where he served as the department’s GLBT liaison. Through a series of chance meetings he became a friend of gay football player David Copey and the two were eventually linked in the local press. The Chief recounted the story in good humor and seemed very comfortable with his audience.

The goal of McManus’ talk was to get his audience to get to know him. The Philadelphia native described his 23 years on the Washington, DC police force, his time as Police Chief in Dayton, Ohio and his two years as Chief in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Throughout his talk, it was clear that the Chief’s point of view was very different from the one that existed in the San Antonio Police force before his recent appointment. He told the audience wanted to change the culture of the department where "lack of input" and "lack of action" are endemic.

McManus addressed the most important concerns of the GLBT community during the question and answer session. He told the audience that he did not endorse gay witch-hunts or the entrapment of gay men by undercover police. He was supportive of having GLBT speakers address police cadets during training and endorsed letting gay and lesbian police officers form a GLBT police association if they so desired. The Chief even offered his email address. "I’m out and about in the community and accessible," he told the group.

One older gentleman in the audience rose to tell the Chief a heartbreaking story of how he no longer walks his dog down his street every evening because a neighbor has verbally abused him and repeatedly threatened to shoot him dead because he is gay. Making matters worse, the police officers responding at the scene told him that it might be best if he stay inside his home to remain safe. The man said that it took seven months for the Police Department to respond to his formal complaint about the lack of action on his case. McManus met with the man after the meeting and promised to look into the matter.

All-in-all Police Chief McManus seemed to leave the Stonewall audience with a good impression, receiving a standing ovation at the end of his talk. Bryan Gerard, the meeting’s moderator and co-chairman of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, described the situation best when he told the group, "We’ve listened to what Chief McManus has had to say. It’s up to us to hold him to his word."

SAPD liaison speaks at Stonewall Democrats’ meeting
QSanAntonio, May 16, 2006

The Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio played host on May 15 to Captain Larry Birney, the San Antonio Police Department’s liaison to the GLBT community. Speaking to a packed house of Stonewall members and guests, the Captain sought to create an aura of goodwill with an audience who listened attentively, then asked more than a few hard questions.

Captain Birney is a 30-plus year veteran of the S.A.P.D. with a distinguished record of service that includes time spent on the Swat Team. These days, he reports directly to the Police Chief in a variety of capacities. The Captain’s recent appointment by former Police Chief Albert Ortiz as the point man for the GLBT community came about as the result of a September 2005 report issued by Amnesty International that portrayed the department as hostile and homophobic.

The report entitled, "Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S." contains numerous case studies that detail how San Antonio GLBT citizens were verbally abused, physically roughed up, intimidated, and entrapped by police officers, park rangers and Bexar County jailers. One of Chief Ortiz’ final tasks before his retirement was to sign an Amnesty International pledge in which he made promises to change the department. One of those changes was the appointment of a community liaison.

The theme of Captain Birney’s address at the Stonewall meeting was that things are indeed changing albeit slowly. He cited the introduction of sensitivity training for police cadets, separate incarceration for GLBT prisoners, and heightened awareness of GLBT issues within the department. Despite this, his talk seemed long on generalities ("We’re seeing an evolution.") and short on details when questioned by Stonewall members.

The audience did learn that neither the Park Police, where some of the most blatant abuse has occurred, nor the Bexar County Jail, are parts of the Police Department despite the fact that Amnesty International lumped them all together in its report. Captain Birney gave his assurances that the department under new Police Chief William McManus is "working diligently to get the message out" to all local policing agencies that abuse of GLBT citizens should not be tolerated.

Perhaps the most important information that Captain Birney offered was his cell phone number (210-260-3927). He encouraged everyone to keep it handy and use it if they had questions or had a negative encounter with the local police. It was up to the GLBT community to spread the word about his presence in the department he said. The final impression was that, for the time being, Captain Birney’s outreach to the community would be more reactive than proactive. It’s a first step in a long-needed dialog.

Amnesty International criticizes SAPD for mistreatment of GLBT citizens
AmnestyUSA.org, September, 2005

Amnesty international, the international human rights group, surveyed police departments across the country and focused in detail on four cities.

The 149-page Stonewalled analyzes alleged police misconduct toward and abuse of LGBT people in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Antonio and makes recommendations to police departments about complying with international human-rights law. Amnesty International chose these cities based on their population size, activism, and history of police misconduct
Amnesty International researchers conducted 170 interviews, plus confidential on-line surveys, and follow-up phone conversations with members of the LGBT community, activists, and police. Amnesty International also consulted local hate-crime statutes and media reports.

The report can be read by clicking on:
Stonewalled- Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lebian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in the U.S.

Report Slams Way S.A. Police Treat Gays
Excerpt from article by John Tedesco
San Antonio Express-News September 23, 2005

"The Bexar County Sheriff's Department was criticized for jailing transgender women in holding cells with men.

And San Antonio police officers were accused of groping suspects during searches, verbally and physically abusing them and mishandling domestic violence cases involving gays and lesbians.

The report found that SAPD did not have any policies for searching transgender people. The department also has an "unwritten policy" of threatening victims of domestic violence with arrest if they repeatedly call for help, the report said."

Up Against a Stonewall
Excerpt from article by Lisa Sorg
San Antonio Current, October 6, 2005

"On September 21, the day the report was released, SAPD Chief Albert Ortiz signed an Amnesty International pledge in which he made several guarantees:

--His department will send a clear message to all officers that abuse and ill treatment of LGBT people will not be tolerated

-- All allegations and reports of police abuse and misconduct will be investigated impartially and officers who are found responsible will be held accountable

-- LGBT individuals will be safe while in detention

-- SAPD will review the findings and recommendations of the Amnesty International report with the intent of making any necessary changes in police or procedures."