Originally published: Sept. 8, 2010, 5:30 p.m.
Updated: Sept. 13, 2010, 11 a.m.
CHARLOTTE — A community advocate tells qnotes that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) officials have finally nailed down a date for their anticipated public forum with LGBT community members.
Roberta Dunn, who serves as a member of the Mecklenburg Gay & Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) steering committee, said a community forum will be held at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center on Oct. 12, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Chief Rodney Monroe, Communications head Capt. Brian Cunningham and Community Services Division head Maj. John Diggs will attend.
Dunn said she has high hopes for the event.
“I hope to get the place filled with 70-80 people to come in and listen to the chief,” she related to qnotes. “We’ll ask him to say a few words, talk a little about the Tony Alston case and how he is pleased to be creating a liaison officer.”
Community concern over relationships with CMPD have heightened after April’s murder of transgender Charlottean Tony Alston. In its aftermath, this newspaper and community members, Dunn included, raised several areas of improvement needing attention. The creation of an LGBT police liaison — an officer tasked with networking with and reaching out to the LGBT community — was one of those points.
As first reported by qnotes on Aug. 27, CMPD officials have already committed to a potential liaison position and were more than willing to engage the LGBT community in public discussion.
“The department is interested in making sure if there is a community that wants to share concerns that we are always open to it,” Diggs said at the time. “This idea of having a liaison for the LGBT community — we’re definitely going to do that…”
Monroe, who was hired as CMPD chief in June 2008 worked previously as chief of police in Richmond, Va. He held that post from February 2005 until his move to Charlotte.
Jay Squires, president and CEO of the Gay Community Center of Richmond, said Monroe and the Richmond Police Department were relatively LGBT-friendly and had positive relationships with the local community.
“I think people in the city typically were pleased with Chief Monroe during his time here,” Squires said.
Although Richmond does not have an LGBT police liaison, Squires said some progress was made toward that goal under Monroe’s leadership.
“There were efforts during Chief Monroe’s time as chief to have discussion on forming a liaison unit here in Richmond,” he said. “They made some progress on that and, as a matter of fact, Chief Monroe through his subordinates set up a structure to study the issue. By the time it got to the point of being ready to make progress, he announced he would be leaving and we had a new mayor shortly thereafter.”
Squires is sure positive steps forward made under Monroe’s direction have made future progress possible: “Mayor [Dwight] Jones has made public statements to the effect that he wants to outreach to the LGBT community and work is underway to make that happen. I’m confident that in a little bit of time we’ll have some structure here in Richmond,” he said.
As with Richmond’s previous experiences, many of CMPD’s current conversations on a potential LGBT liaison position remain preliminary. However, Dunn described the upcoming public forum as a “bridge of communications between the LGBT community and police” and hopes those continued discussions with CMPD officials will result in positive movement forward.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx’s office said the mayor was open to the conversations.
“He does encourage police officers to be accessible to all members of the community,” said spokesperson Erica Johnson.
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