Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts along with several officers from the department met with members of the LGBT community on Oct. 10 at the Waxter Center. The meeting was arranged by the department’s LGBT Advisory Council and FreeState Legal.
The forum, which was scheduled as part of Baltimore Black Pride’s weeklong celebration, was aimed at opening lines of communication and to improve relations between the department and LGBT residents.
It also focused on alleged hate crimes as well as profiling and harassment by police that targets community members. In addition, the manner and tone in which police officers have spoken to members of the public was discussed.
“We’re here to be open, we’re here to engage, we’re here to be part of the community — all parts of the community,” Batts said. The commissioner, who said he grew up with a gay uncle, saw the high-profile beating of gay man Kenni Shaw last Christmas as the catalyst to improve communication. This led to the establishment of the LGBT Advisory Council.
Shaw and his supporters believe the attack outside a corner store in East Baltimore was a hate crime given Shaw’s sexual orientation and the fact that no robbery was committed. Batts indicated that the police have not reached the conclusion that it was a hate crime and no such charges were filed.
Other issues addressed included the handling of same-sex domestic violence situations between same-sex couples, the procedures in place to deal with profiling complaints, crime in the area and the success so far of the “Public Enemy No. 1” campaign. The police touted statistics indicating a decline in violent and property crime from the previous year.
“Unfortunately, there were more police and city officials there than actually community members and stakeholders,” activist Rev. Meredith Moise said of the surprisingly low turnout. “It is great to see the commissioner and his staff reaching out to the Baltimore LGBT community. However, we, as a community, need to show up and be present for these events. A relationship is a two-way street. Hopefully more folks will show up to the next event.”