Volume 75, Number 7 | July 6 - 12, 2005

Gay youth complain of police harassment in Village

By Albert Amateau

FIERCE!, the organization that advocates for the gay and transgender youth who frequent the Village waterfront, faced police officers from the Sixth Precinct at a raucous meeting sponsored by the Community Board 2 L.G.B.T. Committee.

The talk was indeed fierce at the June 20 meeting where about 80 gay and trans youth met with Officer Tim Duffy and Lieutenant Rick Pfluger along with adult gay and lesbian observers at the L.G.B.T. Community Center on W. 13th St.

Rickke Mananzalo, a FIERCE! spokesperson, charged that police unfairly target gay and transgender youth of color and harass them on Christopher St. on their way to and from the Village waterfront. “It’s not just a few bad cops,” he said. “It’s N.Y.P.D. policy here and other places in the city.”

Although the complaints focused on one incident on Christopher St. at the end of last summer, FIERCE! members said they were regularly disrespected and called derogatory names by police.

Duffy, however, insisted that policing of Christopher St. is not discriminatory and declared that police have a right to demand that crowds move on and to arrest people who break the law. “I’m openly gay and I’ve been in the precinct since 1991,” Duffy noted.

“I’ve been harassed by gay cops too,” retorted one FIERCE! member.

“Just because you’re a cop with a gun doesn’t give you the right to disrespect me,” said another youth.

Bob Kohler, a prominent gay activist in the Village for 40 years and an observer at the meeting, said the discrimination was obvious. “I can walk the streets and protest and never get arrested, but the youth are,” he noted.

“That’s because you’re white,” FIERCE! members said in chorus.

Duffy reminded the meeting that specific complaints of police brutality should be reported to the Civilian Complaint Review Board for investigation, and noted that every officer wears a nametag. But FIERCE! members derided the suggestion that a gay or trans youth would be bold enough to take down a name while being handcuffed.

Pfluger, however, told them that the precinct would investigate every charge of brutality by any officer. “You don’t even need a name, if you specify a time and a place where you say you were harassed or abused, we will know who was there,” the lieutenant said.

The youth group distributed a synopsis of a report that said 66 percent of L.G.B.T. youth of color in their survey reported police targeting and profiling based on race and sexual orientation. FIERCE! also doubted the effectiveness of the C.C.R.B., noting that of the 18,474 complaints filed in 2004, only 8 percent resulted in disciplinary action.

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