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September 18, 2006
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In 4 cities, mixed grades on police relations with gays

AP National Writer

NEW YORK- Amnesty International examined relations between police and gays in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Antonio in a report last year. Each police department was credited with improving relations, but Amnesty said significant problems persisted.

A look at the current situation in those cities:

-Chicago police have appointed liaison officers in precincts with large gay populations and introduced late-night bike patrols to reduce anti-gay assaults. Activists still fault police dealings with homeless gay youths, but they credit authorities with good intentions.

"Historically, the Chicago Police Department's reputation has been a rough, tough, discipline-only approach," said gay alderman Tom Tunney, who represents the Lakeview district. "Here, the community has been demanding, and getting, a much better response."

-New York police officials say their department has had at least one full-time liaison with the gay community for two decades, and now has three, including a gay detective who reports directly to the police commissioner. Chief spokesman Paul Browne said Amnesty unfairly criticized the department based on unsubstantiated allegations of harassment of transgender prostitutes.

-In Los Angeles, "things have improved drastically over the last 15 years, but there's a long way to go," said Roger Coggan, legal services director at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

"We don't have blatant discrimination, but if you're an effeminate gay man or a transgender immigrant, you're not going to be treated with the same respect as if you're a middle class gay or lesbian," Coggan said.

-In San Antonio, as Amnesty was investigating in 2004, the police chief appointed Capt. Larry Birney as liaison to the gay community.

"My phone rings 3-4 times a week _ people with concerns, questions, allegations of harassment...," Birney said. "Those that are facts, we investigate."

The department also permitted three activists to examine curriculum used to teach new officers about gay issues and to attend training classes. Lynne Armstrong, one of the activists, said the effort is far from complete but "they've been most open and gracious to receiving us."

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