CHARLOTTE — Officials with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) this week committed to pursuing the creation of an LGBT police liaison and holding a public open forum to address LGBT community concerns, according to a local advocate.

Roberta Dunn, who is a member of the Mecklenburg Gay and Lesbian Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) steering committee, was joined by two other representatives of the LGBT community: Don Rosenthal, a former MeckPAC steering committee member, and Donielle Prophete, sister of April murder victim Toni Alston. The three met with Chief of Police Rodney Monroe, Criminal Investigation Bureau head Maj. Paul Zinkann III, Community Services head Maj. John Diggs and Executive Officer Maj. Vicki Foster.

“The discussion at the meeting was first and foremost about the attention and handling of the Toni Alston case,” Dunn told qnotes.

Alston, a 44-year-old transgender woman, died April 3 after being shot in the doorway of her home. Community concern regarding the Alston case has focused on CMPD investigators’ and other officials’ mishandling of appropriate media outreach and the offensive terminology used to describe Alston. In the midst of those discussions, Dunn and others raised questions on the potential of an LGBT police liaison position inside CMPD.

Dunn says CMPD needs more education on LGBT people and issues, which could help with their response to LGBT-related crimes in the future. Other cities, like Atlanta and Washington, D.C., already employ officers tasked with outreaching to LGBT communities. Dunn says a similar position here could go along way toward bridging the gap between police and LGBT citizens, organizations and businesses.

“I would like to have something similar to what Washington, D.C., has — a police department liaison and some sort of an organization here in the LGBT community with representatives from, for example, the Business Guild, maybe the Community Center and even someone from the LGBT news arena, people who could be involved when there is a potential crime committed within or to the LGBT community,” Dunn said.

After discussing the Alston case and other issues, Dunn said the group turned to discussions on a potential liaison and some sort of community forum.

“One of the talking points was to see if the chief would be willing to create an LGBT liaison to work with the LGBT community and would they be willing to hold an open forum with the community,” Dunn said. “The answer to both those questions was an affirmative and definitive yes and Chief Monroe said we would want to do this sooner rather than later.”

Maj. John Diggs, head of CMPD’s Community Services Bureau, said the he and his colleagues are willing to hear concerns from community members.

“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 told qnotes. “This idea of having a liaison for the LGBT community — we’re definitely going to do that and hopefully get some concrete ideas around it in the next few days.”

Diggs said he believes this is the first time a liaison-type position has been proposed during his time with CMPD. He agreed such a position, and the possibility of a forum for community concerns, would be beneficial to CMPD’s service to citizens.

“A roundtable and having a liaison in some way, it makes sense,” he said. “We seek to serve all the citizens of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County fairly and equitably. If there is a need particular to any community we are certainly interested in being aware of those needs and meeting those needs as best we can as a police provider.”

Other community leaders have held similar conversations with CMPD officials, including former Lesbian & Gay Community Center board chair Denise Palm-Beck. In April, Palm-Beck told qnotes she was pursing those conversations “with vigor” and turning to existing relationships developed over the course of planning for the Center’s Pride Charlotte festival.

“We are clearly behind this education process, Palm-Beck said of the Center’s commitment to the issue. “I really think, I believe, people want to know, try really hard to understand.”

qnotes attempted but was unable to reach Palm-Beck for updates to her in-roads with CMPD.

Dunn is set to meet with Diggs next Tuesday. At that meeting, Dunn expects to iron out a confirmed date for an LGBT community forum with Chief Monroe and other CMPD officials. Although a possible date in mid-September has been mentioned, a definitive date has yet to be nailed down. Dunn and Diggs said details should be released soon.

info: Stay tuned to goqnotes.com for more information on this story and a scheduled date for CMPD’s community forum as soon as it is announced.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.