In the fight to obtain federal hate crimes legislation, one argument we hear from opponents of the law over and over again is, “a crime is a crime.” But what people making that argument don’t realize is that the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act isn’t just about criminalizing bias based crimes, but also about protecting suspect classes from those who are supposed to protect them.
As previously discussed, on June 28, 2009, the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth, Texas was raided by Ft. Worth police officers and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officers. Ft. Worth police chief, Jeff Halstead, has indicated that the Ft. Worth Police Department is investigating allegations of excessive force and police brutality in the raid. Now, TABC has indicated that an investigation has been launched by their agency into the allegations.
Have you noticed the problem with the investigation yet? The agencies that are accused of the abuse are the very agencies investigating themselves for the alleged abuse. Imagine for a moment you are accused of a crime. Police tell you, “It is alleged that you are a serial killer.” You then turn to police and advise them, “Don’t worry, my husband/wife will be investigating the allegations and we will let you know whether or not I’m guilty.” That would never be allowed to occur. The reliability of such investigation would be questionable, at best, and likely completely corrupt. Would the police trust you to investigate yourself?
Enter the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (the Matthew Shepard Act). Hate crimes legislation on the federal level already exists for many suspect classes. The new Act being proposed simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing law. It would also allow a federal agency authority to investigate bias crimes committed by local law enforcement rather than the local agencies investigating the allegations for themselves.
During the police raid that night, Chad Gibson, while in police custody, received a severe head injury. This injury isn’t just about police brutality or the raid of a gay bar. The question that must be answered is whether or not this raid, conducted on the 40th anniversary of police raids of the Stonewall Inn which sparked riots and the gay rights movement as we know it today, was intended to send a message to the community, “You are not wanted here.” It must be investigated as a hate crime. Unfortunately, religious ideology, conservative theory and the belief that gays are less of humans than straights have prevented such legislation from being passed.
So, when the TABC claims their investigation indicated they did nothing wrong, when the Ft. Worth Police Department’s investigation of its actions indicate they did nothing wrong, remember – they are investigating themselves because our feirce ally and representatives in the Senate can’t seem to pass a simple, yet necessary law.