NYPD launches investigation into officers’ response to anti-gay attack

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday September 28, 2009

Three men who said they suffered an anti-gay attack over the weekend in Manhattan claim New York Police Department officers failed to adequately respond to it.

WPLJ DJ Blake Hayes told EDGE a man assaulted Broadway performer Danny Calvert and another friend as they walked past McCoy's Bar on Ninth Avenue in Hell's Kitchen early Saturday morning. Hayes said the incident began after the alleged perpetrator flicked a cigarette butt that hit his friend. He added the man said "keep moving, faggot" after his friend confronted him. Hayes said the man proceeded to shove Calvert into a parked car and punch his other friend in the mouth.

Hayes said NYPD officers quickly responded after he and his friends called 911. He maintains, however, they did not arrest the alleged perpetrator or even take his contact information.

"The police never wrote down a thing," Hayes alleged. "They never looked at ID from him-or any of us. They didn't have any notepads out."

Hayes added the officers refused to run the damaged car's license plates because they came from New Jersey. He further alleged officers at the 18th precinct on West 54th Street discouraged his friends from filing a report.

"Once they got there [to the scene,] they had already made up their minds they weren't going to deal with it," Hayes said.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly's office has agreed to conduct an investigation into the officers' response. The NYPD confirmed to EDGE its Hate Crimes Task Force will coordinate the probe.

Quinn added police officials have also agreed to meet with the victims this week. And she further stressed she feels the officers alleged conduct "merits swift action by the police department" if proven true.

"Once they got there [to the scene,] they had already made up their minds they weren't going to deal with it."

"One of the most significant tools that have helped us to combat hate crimes here in New York City is having a strong police response to incidents when they occur," Quinn said. "There was a time in our city when victims of hate crimes did not feel that the police were their allies. Any time a crime of this nature occurs, victims need to know they will be taken seriously."

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects issued a report last year that found 43 percent of those who said they experienced anti-LGBT violence did not notify the police. The survey further indicated 13 percent of those who contacted law enforcement said officers refused to take a report.

"We know there is a chilling effect when the community perceives police will not respond to anti-LGBT violence issues," Sharon Stapel, executive director of the Anti-Violence Project in New York, said.

Stapel added she feels many challenges remain about how law enforcement responds to bias-motivated crimes. These include how to identify whether an anti-LGBT attack actually took place, and overall response.

"We have to work with the police to understand what anti-LGBT violence looks like, but we also need to be clear with the police what the responses are," Stapel said. "Training has to be consistent and in all precincts."

The alleged victims of the Hell's Kitchen are scheduled to meet with the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force later today. Hayes stressed to EDGE he feels the officers would have responded differently if "we had been three women in the exact same situation." He said he remains optimistic, however, the publicity

the allegations have generated will continue to highlight what he maintains is the problem of anti-LGBT violence in New York and elsewhere.

"It was a perfect response to a lack of response," Hayes said. "It's not going to get swept under the rug as they had thought when they walked away."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.