Police revising policies after Texas gay bar raid
By Angela K. Brown
FORT WORTH, Texas — The Fort Worth police chief said Tuesday that he is revising bar inspection policies in the wake of a raid on a gay bar that left one customer seriously injured and several officers facing allegations of wrongdoing.
Chief Jeff Halstead told the City Council that problems happened at the Rainbow Lounge in the early morning hours of June 28 because the department's bar inspection policy lacked specific guidelines, which he said was why no policies were violated.
He said a revised policy should be in place by Sept. 1 with rules for a three tiered-system: bar checks, inspections and investigations.
The department is also trying to mend its relationship with the gay community - which held several protest marches after the raid - by having meetings, appointing an officer as a liaison and providing more diversity training to officers, Halstead said.
"Once the policy is complete, we're never going to come here again," he said after giving his preliminary report on the investigation into the raid. "We are recovering from this, and I'm very proud of that."
A final report should be finished in late September or October, Halstead said. It will include the department's findings on whether allegations against some officers - including excessive force and unprofessional conduct - are justified and any recommended disciplinary actions.
Gay rights groups initially demanded independent investigations, saying the bar was targeted because it catered to a gay clientele. Police have denied the accusation.
Halstead told the council that Fort Worth police decided to inspect the Rainbow Lounge and two other bars - in an area known for having many public intoxication arrests - a day after Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent and a Fort Worth officer arrested a man who was passed out in his car a block from the lounge.
Fort Worth police then led the inspection - not the state agency, as officials first reported - with five officers and one sergeant, and the TABC had two agents, Halstead said.
He said most of the six people who were arrested that night were taken into custody without any problems after officers saw indications they were drunk.
But in one case, officers saw the TABC agents struggling with a man later identified as Chad Gibson, Halstead said. A Fort Worth officer tried to help by applying a pressure-point technique on his face, but when that didn't work the agents took Gibson to the ground, Halstead said.
After Gibson was handcuffed, he was stumbling while walking on his own with an officer, Halstead said. Another witness confirmed the TABC agent's statements that Gibson fell and hit his head on the ground while he was standing by a police van, Halstead said.
Gibson was hospitalized for a week but has said he has a blood clot behind his right eye.
Halstead said he called Gibson's father shortly after the incident, apologized that he was injured and promised to do a thorough investigation.
Halstead acknowledged Tuesday that while authorities set out to inspect the bar, what happened that night may have resembled a raid in some ways.
"I am apologizing for the actions and the reflection that this gave our community because they perceived it as a bar raid ... and that was not our intent," Halstead said.
A report released by TABC said two agents were wearing improper attire - "state police" shirts - and those agents are accused of violating the agency's policies including not telling the owner they were conduction an inspection.
Some Fort Worth officers also ran inside the Rainbow Lounge just before 2 a.m. after an officer sent two distress calls 18 seconds apart on his police radio asking for help with a customer resisting arrest, Halstead said.
"Hey - I need help in here. ... I'm by the restroom," one officer said, sounding breathless, according to audiotape of the calls obtained by The Associated Press under the Texas Open Records Act.
Halstead said when the department got the second distress call, the situation became more urgent.
"I'll be honest. The officers probably had adrenaline running in their veins, and they were probably excited. ... All of us that wear this uniform have been there when you enter in after two distress calls are put out. You really don't know what's going on," he said.