Metro Nashville’s failed transgender response; How Goodlettsville got it right

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Metro Nashville has been quietly handling their response to the transgender shaming incident by multiple city employees in October. Along the way, they have shown some signs of progress. However, they also took 28 days to ask the victim’s name, and are considering a city-wide response that does nothing to address the behavior of the employees. Goodlettsville, however, addressed the incident with a passion, and moved forward with the support of their community.

7 weeks ago, we reported on 11 city employees of both Nashville Metro & Goodlettsville, all who participated in the shaming of a transgender citizen on social media, ranging from inappropriate comments, to some who secretly took photos of the individual – and not just from one person or one place, these were from different employees over a period of time, showing an apparent wide-spread attitude within the departments, as it wasn’t just a one-time incident – it spread over months between departments and even cities.

Involved were 4 MNPD Officers, 2 MNPD Sergeants, 2 MNFD firefighters, 2 Goodlettsville Police officers, 1 Metro school teacher, and a since retired Metro ECC dispatcher. The response of each city, and even each department, varied widely, and we did not get any sort of unified response from the city of Nashville, until they Mayor’s new press secretary took his position a few weeks ago.

Overall, the city of Nashville Metro has provided a varied response to the situation quietly – while saying nothing publicly on the incident via social media, or with a statement to the city. The Mayor’s office did acknowledge the effort to elicit a public response to the city from the Mayor, stating “we made the decision to stay quiet on that front as we worked through this process.”

METRO’S GOOD EFFORTS:

Nashville Metro may have kept quiet publicly, but behind the scenes they were coordinating some efforts between departments and outside organizations that, while mostly were procedural, at least confirmed that they already had proper framework and training in place, to respond to such situations.

On October 22nd, A meeting was held between the Mayor’s office, MNPD, NFD, the Human Relations Commission, the Tennessee Equality Project, and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, during which, ‘best practices’ to promote and ensure a continuing inclusive workforce were discussed.

During this meeting, the group

  • reviewed Police Academy training. noted current DOJ transgender interaction education video has been useful, along with the discussion panels. The most recent June training session included 5 LGBTQ members on the panel, 3 of whom were transgender, of which 1 was a former officer.
  • noted it may be time to expand training to all Metro employees, not just police/fire.
  • discussed having formal LGBTQ liaisons in each department – will look at other city’s best practices to apply to Nashville.

STATUS OF THE EMPLOYEES

The outstanding question for many, is “what will happen to the employees”. The disciplinary status of all involved (that have responded to our inquiries) is that investigations are still ongoing within the guidelines of civil service procedure. No time-frame of resolution has been provided by any department.

  • MNPD:  OPA is still conducting a review based on Metro Civil Service rules with due diligence. All officers are still on full active duty with no restrictions
  • MNFD: Conducting an internal investigation, no further information has been provided.
  • GVPD: Completed, re-training, and counseling. Near immediate turnaround.
  • MNPS: Has not responded to any requests regarding their employee or situation.

28 DAYS IN: METRO ASKS FOR VICTIM’S NAME

On November 8th, Scoop: Nashville asked the Mayor’s office if anyone had reached out to the victim. It was that day, 28 days after the incident was published, that it became clear no one had even asked the victim’s name. At 11:43 AM an email asking “Are you aware if anyone has reached out to the victim?” was sent to the Mayor’s office, at 12:35, a reply was received that Marisa (HRC) was working on that. At 12: 04 PM, Melody from the HRC emailed asking if we were in contact with the victim, or could identify her. At 1:16 PM, another reply from the Mayor’s office read “trying to identify the victim”.

It was a mad scramble to identify the victim for the city, as no one had attempted to reach out to her. In the 28 days since publication, no one had asked us for her name or other information. Emails continued until nearly 11 PM that night, with the final one reading, in part, “we are committed to pushing the city to do the the right thing. Marisa (HRC) has the community’s trust on this”. We did provide HRC with the name of the victim.

MNPD APOLOGIZES – BUT NOT TO VICTIM

The Metro Nashville Police Department’s response has been very quiet. To date there has been no formal statement to the public, no news release that this incident occurred, only a few quiet apologies.

Even though MNPD never sought the victim’s name to make any sort of public apology, Chief Steve Anderson made a personal phone call to Todd Roman, the owner of many Church Street LGBT businesses, such as Play Dance Bar, Tribe, & Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. Roman also assists with diversity training for new recruits for the police academy. That is the person that MNPD Chief chose to issue an apology to. Not the victim. Not the public, just the owner of the largest LGBT establishments in town.

For what it’s worth, Roman reports that he believes the Chief has “taken this very serious”, and says the Chief expressed how disappointed he was, and how the actions in no way represent the force as a whole. Roman says that he has direct access to the Chief on a regular basis, and he has always been responsive to his concerns.

MNPD’S SHINING STAR

Although the department as a whole missed the mark, Midtown Hills Precinct Commander Kay Lokey, who has also been the department’s LGBT liaison for the past 5 years, did her job amazingly well. Commander Lokey came to a LGBT Chamber of Commerce meeting and spoke openly and honestly to those in attendance. While that’s a tiny percentage of the gay community, it’s also the gay bar owners, shop owners, and the people that help influence opinions across the city. She expressed exactly what happened, how embarrassed they were, and assured it was being addressed. Commander Lokey is the sole shining star in the darkness of this entire incident.

MNPD CONSIDERS LGBT ‘SAFE PLACES’

There has never been a specific need for LGBTQ citizens of Nashville to have a ‘safe place’ to wait while reporting a crime to the police, however that’s the non-issue that MNPD is attempting to solve, as they consider this program in response to the transgender shaming incident. It’s almost as if they used google images to search for rainbow police, and picked the first program that required zero effort on their part to implement, other than printing some stickers, and looked good to the community.

Specifically, the program, which was created by the Seattle Police Department, and is called ‘Safe Place’, sets up a citywide volunteer network of businesses and nonprofits committed to protecting LGBTQ individuals. Local managers and store owners register on the safe place website and receive a 4-by-6-inch, rainbow-striped sticker in the shape of a police badge. Installed on a street-facing window:

the sticker advises LGBTQ individuals that employees have pledged two things. First, to call 911 to report all crimes, and specifically when they witness a hate crime; and second, to allow victims to stay inside their business until police arrive.

MNPD confirmed to Scoop: Nashville that Lieutenant David Leavitt has been assigned to research and potentially implement the Safe Place Program in Nashville. Lt. David Leavitt will be assuming the role of the LGBT liaison in the coming weeks and months as the role is expanded to perhaps include an officer to assist Lt. Leavitt. The role of LGBT Liasion has been held by Midtown Hills Precinct Commander Kay Lokey for the past five years.

A representative of the Mayor’s office confirms a late November meeting with Officer Ritter of the Seattle Police Department’s Safe Place program. In January of 2017, the Louisville Metro Police Department was the first major police department outside of Seattle to implement in program. Los Angeles, CA & Orlando, FL have since implemented similar versions of the program in their cities.

MNPS: ZERO RESPONSE:

We reached out to Metro Nashville Public Schools on 10/25/18, via Dawn Rutledge, requesting information on her involved employee, as we were preparing an update to the story, and have yet to receive any reply from MNPS to this incident.

GOODLETTSVILLE: HOW IT’S DONE

We initially reported that Goodlettsville Police had two officers involved, however one of those officers had left the department for a short period of time to work for the THP, and that’s when he participated in this transgender shaming incident. He did since re-join the Goodlettsville Police Department.

For a small city, that doesn’t even list sexual orientation or gender identity as part of their non-discrimination policy, Goodlettsville’s response to this incident has set the bar for any other future incidents.

Like Metro Nashville, an immediate investigation was opened into the incident. Unlike Metro, they almost immediately issued a release apologizing the actions of their employees, stating their employees had owned up to their conduct, and even expressed remorse for their conduct.

The city then began to immediately counsel and re-train the officers involved, even stating they will ‘encourage them to have the heart for all people”. What they did next – officials began showing up at police roll-calls, for all shifts, until all other 41 sworn officers were also addressed about situation. This continued over several days until every officer knew what happened, how it was remedied, and how it would absolutely not be tolerated, under any circumstance, going forward, and they were expected to “possess the heart for all persons that will allowed them to live up to the oath they swore, and the code of ethics to which they agreed to uphold”. Our only fault with Goodlettsville, is that they, also, never asked about the identity of the victim, in order to make an effort of a direct apology.

The difference between the two cities, and even between the departments within Metro Nashville, shows that despite everyone’s best efforts, Metro Nashville simply doesn’t have a single person with the authority to step up see this issue through to completion, with a clear view of what’s at stake. LGBT citizens don’t need a sticker on a door to know a Nashville business is safe to enter to ask for police assistance. What LGBTQ citizens need, is to know that once an officer arrives they won’t be harassed, ridiculed, embarrassed, or shamed online, after the incident is over.

Goodlettsville figured that out. Metro is still lost, trying to figure out its own identity, and what image it wants to show to the world – which is so far, bureaucracy, and public silence.

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