Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

LGBTs meet with SF police officials

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Interim Police Chief Jeff Godown, left, speaks at the first meeting of the San Francisco Police Department's LGBT Community Forum. To his left is Police Commissioner Jim Hammer and forum members Amanda Harris, Ken Craig, and Ming Wong. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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ADVERTISMENT

San Francisco police officials are continuing efforts to reach out to the LGBT community as the city prepares to select a new police chief.

On Tuesday, February 8, interim Police Chief Jeff Godown and other department staff met with community members for their first citywide LGBT forum since a November orientation.

At last week's meeting, which was held at the Noe Valley Library, Godown announced that Lieutenant Lea Militello, an out lesbian and president of the department's Pride Alliance for LGBT officers, had been named head of the homicide unit.

In an interview, Militello, who's previously worked as a homicide inspector, said, "Frankly, the reason I became a police officer was to work homicide."

She said, "Homicide victims no longer can speak for themselves," and the inspector's job "is to speak for those victims and bring closure for those families."

One of the unit's active investigations is into the Pink Saturday shooting last June 26. That night, the eve of the city's LGBT Pride Parade, Stephen Powell, 19, was killed as thousands of people filled the area around Castro and Market streets.

"I think we have people identified in this case, but the problem with the Pink Saturday case is we need to get people to come forward. We're following up on the leads we have. It's an active investigation," Militello said.

She also said investigations into the killings of Mariah Qualls, a transgender woman who was found dead in December 2009, and Philip DiMartino, a gay man whose body was found last August, are moving forward. She declined to discuss details on any of the cases.

Militello, 51, was named head of the unit October 30. Police data indicate her salary is $146,562. She replaced Lieutenant Mike Stasko, whom Militello said is doing a special project.

The forum also included discussions of safety for this year's Pink Saturday, the suspected arsons in the Castro two weeks ago, and nightlife issues, among other topics.

David Morgan, who represented the South of Market Bar and Business Guild at the meeting, said in an interview, "It's important for us to have open lines of communication" with the city's supervisors "and with the police department so they can see we are responsible business people."

Lieutenant Mindy Talmadge, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Fire Department, said Tuesday, February 15, that no new information was available on the fires. More than a dozen people were displaced in one of the incidents.

Next week, the LGBT community will have another chance to weigh in on police issues.

The city's Police Commission is seeking public input on the next police chief through a series of meetings. From 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, February 24, people are invited to attend a discussion at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

Just before he left office this year, former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Police Chief George Gasc—n to be the city's district attorney. Gascon replaced ex-DA Kamala Harris, who is now California's attorney general. Newsom is now the state's lieutenant governor.

Out Police Commissioner Jim Hammer, who was at last week's LGBT forum, said in an interview that LGBT officers have made progress in the department, but "those gains are fragile, so I hope people speak out strongly."

Officer Jennifer Thompson, an out lesbian and liaison to the LGBT community, said she'd like to see more diversity at the forum, especially women of color. The forum has four women and eight men.

The next forum is Tuesday, March 8.

Thompson encourages people interested in joining the forum to contact her at (415) 734-3274 or Jennifer.Thompson@sfgov.org.

Anyone with information regarding the deaths of Powell, Qualls, or DiMartino can contact the homicide unit at  (415) 553-1145, call police anonymously at (415) 575-4444, or text a tip to 847411 (TIP411). Type "SFPD" and then the tip.

Alleged hate crime

In other police news, an alleged anti-gay hate crime occurred Sunday, February 13 in the 2200 block of Market Street, which is in the largely gay Castro neighborhood.

According to police, at about 3:15 p.m., the 51-year-old victim asked two men, who were outside his business, to leave. The suspects refused and "a verbal argument escalated to a physical assault with homophobic epithets," police stated. The victim's injury was listed as pain to his head, but it wasn't life threatening.

Antonio K. Herico and Alexander Luis Garcia, both 21 and San Francisco residents, were arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, felony vandalism, battery, trespassing, and criminal threats. Police indicated at least one of the alleged offenses is being charged as a hate crime.

Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, wouldn't disclose the name of the victim or his business, citing department policy.

Herico and Garcia are in San Francisco County jail. Their bail has been set at $106,000 and $139,000, respectively, according to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department.

The San Francisco Public Defender's office said it appeared the two men had not been formally charged as of Tuesday morning and did not yet have legal representation.






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