Fort Worth’s top cop is still doing the Rainbow Lounge backpedal, which is refreshing since police are sometimes slow to admit any fault.
This morning, Chief Jeff Halstead released a preliminary summary of the investigation into the Rainbow Lounge raid and described the department’s policy on bar visits as “flawed.”
His staff is revising the current bar check policy to “prevent incidents like the Rainbow Lounge in the future.”
Under current state law, Fort Worth police and TABC officers can go into a bar, look at patrons dancing, playing pool, sitting at tables, talking, breathing, or whatever, and make quick judgments on whether anyone appears drunk, without relying on blood, breath, or field tests. In other words, pretty much anybody in a bar can be arrested at any time for any reason.
Policies this vague gives police too much power and can lead to unwarranted arrests. After all, this is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And Fort Worth is a big city, not some backwater bumpkin burgh in East Texas.
The police chief’s new policy includes “three distinct” categories of bar visits — a bar check, bar inspection, and bar investigation — although he hasn’t thoroughly explained the differences yet.
Still, any impending change in policy that clarifies to officers how to deal with bar patrons during routine inspections should be an improvement over the carte blanche that’s occurring now.
Halstead’s wording in today’s press release is conciliatory and depicts a man who’s trying to be fair and forthcoming.
He is changing policy so that “this does not happen in the future,” and until then “all operations with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission remain suspended,” he wrote.
Police will get more training, education, and cultural awareness to “better enhance the police department’s partnerships with the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender community as well as all community members.”
The Rainbow Lounge incident “has provided the police department an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Gay people, like anybody else, need to “feel reassured that their police department is there to protect and serve all citizens.”
The chief concluded the report by describing the four allegations made against police officers at the Rainbow raid – excessive force, unprofessional conduct, neglect of duty, and failure to supervise.
“The most serious allegation is excessive force,” he wrote. “If any of these allegations are sustained, officers could face disciplinary action ranging from a written reprimand to indefinite suspension (termination).
I’m no bookmaker, but I’ll give good odds that no police officer will be suspended or fired once the investigation is completed. Still, the chief appears to be shooting for a new policy that might rein in police during these bar visits, checks, inspection, investigation, raids, or whatever you want to call them.