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Ft Worth police apologizes for raid on gay bar – on eve of Stonewall

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
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Raid at Rainbow LoungeThe Fort Worth police chief said Tuesday that his department is implementing new policies in the wake of a controversial bar check at the Rainbow Lounge last June.

Chief Jeff Halstead said officials are still investigating what happened during the June 28 raid on the gay bar by Fort Worth police officers and state agents that resulted in five arrests and left another patron, Chad Gibson, with a serious head injury.

Halstead cited a “flawed policy” that led to the incident, and said the new policy will ensure that such an event never happens again.

The incident began about 12:30 a.m., when police officers and Alcohol Commission agents arrived for a routine check to ensure the bar wasn’t serving underage patrons and to stop potential drunk drivers.

At the Rainbow Lounge, which had just opened a week earlier, witnesses said officers forced their way through the crowd and grew physically and verbally aggressive. They claim the officers arrested people at random, never asked for identification and didn’t check blood-alcohol levels on site.

“I am apologizing for the actions and the reflection that this gave our community because they perceived it as a bar raid, and all our interviews with our officers and the other agents, they never, ever intended this to look that way,” Halstead told Fort Worth City Council members Tuesday morning during a progress report on his department’s investigation.

Halstead said the department will continue to conduct bar checks and make public-intoxication arrests, but said the department’s current policy is short and vague, giving “way too much freedom and flexibility.”

The department is also trying to mend its relationship with the LGBT community , which staged protest marches following the raid at the Rainbow Lounge. Halstead said he is appointing an officer as a liaison to the gay community, and providing more diversity training to officers.

The June 28 raid occurred, ironically, on the 40th anniversary of the infamous raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969, sparking the Stonewall riots, largely considered as the birth of the modern gay rights movement.

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