At a forum in late April, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Jackson Heights shared testimonies about their experiences with the local police precincts and brainstormed solutions.
“I heard things like ‘let’s have sex,’” said Winnie Padilla about alleged comments she heard from police officers. “The harassment is daily. I’ve omitted half the stories because it’s tragic.”
The forum, co-sponsored by Make the Road New York’s LGBTQ Justice Projects, the Anti-Violence Project, LGBT Equality Coalition of Queens, New York Civil Liberties Union, Queens Pride House, and Queer Rising was prompted by several recent incidents, such as false arrests for prostitution and verbal harassment, that the majority of the predominantly Hispanic LGBT attendees claimed the police initiated.
According to the forum organizers, they had invited the 115th Precinct and the 110th Precinct – that split the patrol along the Roosevelt Avenue – but neither attended.
“It’s absurd. They have a meeting and an officer doesn’t show up just so they can hear their concerns?” said Senator Jose Peralta, who attended. “Not in this area, not on my watch.”
However, according to the 115th Precinct Commanding Officer, Inspector John Lavelle, they had not been made aware any police relations forum and they had no complaints of police misconduct. Lavelle said that had he known, he would have sent a member of his precinct to the meeting. The Community Affairs Officer at the 110th also said they had not received an invitation.
Lavelle confirmed to The Queens Courier that legitimate arrests for prostitution, those where undercover cops had been involved – had doubled in the last few weeks. He also said new officers under his command received sensitivity training from Jackson Heights Councilmember Daniel Dromm – an openly-gay man – even before Dromm’s election into public office. Lavelle added he “has an open line to Daniel Dromm about any allegations of abuse.”
Dromm also appeared surprised at the allegations of police misconduct towards the LGBT community, in particular the transgender community, in Jackson Heights. “To be honest with you I hadn’t heard the complaints either,” he said.
“The Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee has been doing new recruit training, sensitivity trainings, for almost every class that’s come in to the precinct and the Impact Zone in particular, for about the last 15 years or so,” Dromm said. “I have found Inspector Lavelle to be very responsive to the needs of the LGBT community and inclusive. He never forgets to make sure that we are invited to the trainings.”
Dromm said that he has not done training with the 110 Precinct but “that needs to occur.”
However, Dromm acknowledged that he did get one complaint about an undocumented immigrant who alleged a false arrest after soliciting a transgendered prostitute. He also explained that because now he’s “a government official” some people with undocumented status might fear going to him.
Both Lavelle and Dromm urged members of the LGBT community to report complaints to Detective Timothy Duffy at the NYPD Police Commissioner’s LGBT Liaison Unit. This unit, which comprised of an advisory panel of community members, meets with the Police Commissioner quarterly, with Duffy monthly and on their own to discuss and address these issues. Duffy can be reached at 646-610-6017 or firstname.lastname@example.org.