Gay man, trans woman allege police harassment

Q-Notes contributor Miss Della and friend stopped in neighborhood

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: May 3, 2008 in News

CHARLOTTE — Two members of the city’s LGBT community allege that they were victims of police harassment and unfair profiling based on one’s gender-identity and expression.

On the evening of Apr. 10, gay man Kevin Grooms, who writes for Q-Notes as “Miss Della,” and a transgender friend were stopped in their neighborhood by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Nathan J. Crum.

According to a complaint Grooms filed with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, at approximately 10 p.m., he and his acquaintance were walking into their East Charlotte apartment complex when the officer stopped his car and approached them. Reportedly, Crum asked the pair how they knew each other, then he told Grooms that his friend had previously been “chased away” from the complex by police.

Grooms claims the officer referred to his trans friend with derogatory, mixed-gender pronouns several times and stated that she “may or may not have been involved” in an arrest for prostitution at a nearby establishment.

Grooms says the officer also directed him to “cease friendship” with the woman and said that he would arrest Grooms if he saw them walking in the complex again. When Grooms attempted to clarify the officer’s reasoning for his directions, he says the policeman only replied, “You have been warned.”

Capt. Chuck Adkins of the police department’s Internal Affairs division responded to Grooms’ complaint.

“I am sorry to read that you had a negative experience with a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer,” wrote Adkins. “The behavior you described does not reflect what our department expects from our employees. We value treating all citizens with dignity and respect, which does not match the event you described. For this reason, I am very appreciative that you took the time to write of your experience so that appropriate action can be taken.”

Adkins added that he would forward the complaint to the officer’s division commander and keep Grooms “abreast on what the outcome is.”

In an interview with Q-Notes Adkins said the police department is looking into the matter and the complaint had been forwarded to the Eastway Division, where Crum is currently assigned. He said state personnel laws prohibited him from discussing the situation in detail.

Grooms told Q-Notes that his main concern is how he and his friend will be treated following their encounter with Crum. “Am I not allowed to walk around in my own neighborhood now?”

According to AmnestyUSA, the American branch of the international human rights organization, transgender and other gender-variant people in the U.S. describe high rates of police abuse and misconduct. According to the group’s findings, transgender Americans “report being profiled as suspicious or as criminals while going about everyday business such as shopping for groceries, waiting for the bus, or walking their dog.”

In addition, AmnestyUSA found a “strong pattern of police unfairly profiling transgender women as sex workers.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department policy prohibits officers from any actions that “interfere with or attempt to influence the lawful business of any person.” Policy also directs officers to treat all people with courtesy and to “not express any prejudice concerning race, religion, national origin, sex or other personal characteristics.”

Department regulations also outline various levels of disciplinary action for officers who break policy. Punishment ranges from supervisory counseling and written reprimand to suspension and termination.

The Charlotte police department employs more than 1,600 officers who serve over 700,000 area residents.

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