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Safety, other issues addressed at 'LGBTQ Speak Out'
Safety, other issues addressed at 'LGBTQ Speak Out'
Hate Crime forum scheduled for Nov. 27 at Broadway Performance Hall

by Liz Meyer - SGN Staff Writer

In response to concerns about safety, community leaders held an "LGBTQ Speak Out!" forum this past weekend at the Langston Hughes Center for Performing Arts.

Among the speakers at the forum were political heavyweights Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske and State Sen. Ed Murray.

The fifty or so participants came together for the event, which was sponsored by the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities and City of Seattle's Office of Civil Rights, to talk about issues of their choosing. While a myriad of topics were explored in small groups, from gender identity, to aging and parenting, to the need for a comprehensive history of Seattle's LGBT community, safety concerns seemed to be the main priority for the event's featured speakers.

Indeed, many of the discussions focused upon the rise in bias crimes this summer, particularly those on Capitol Hill. At least eight bias-related crimes were reported in Seattle since June, with five of them occurring on Capitol Hill.

This fact alarmed community members at the forum. In at least one of the small group discussions, community members spoke of these incidents, and gave the Commission for Sexual Minorities suggestions for possible steps commission members could take to better the situation.

Chief Kerlikowske and other representatives of the Seattle Police Department also addressed the disturbing trend.

"We try not to wait for a crisis," said Chief Kerlikowske. "We try not to wait for a hate crime."

Other police representatives spoke of the need for more collaboration between the police and the LGBTQ community.

Captain Paul McDonough of the East Precinct said that he would like to see his officers spending about one-third of their time doing "proactive work" by getting to know the communities they're patrolling. McDonough said mutual trust between the LGBTQ community and his precinct would go a long way in helping the department keep an eye on Capitol Hill and in doing some very basic crime prevention.

Officer Kim Bogucki, a police liaison with the LGBTQ community, works on an advisory board that meets monthly at the LGBT Community Center to discuss issues of concern to the community. She suggested that more community members needed to get involved in the meetings.

"We get the same two regulars every month," said Bogucki. "God knows we love 'em, but that's not a cross-section of the community."

She also urged people to attend the next meeting on November 20 at 6 p.m.

Despite all of the talk about what the media, the police department, or various community leaders ought to be doing in response to the changing Capitol Hill corridor, though, Sen. Murray sounded hopeful about the state of the LGBTQ community, or at least about its relationship with the Seattle Police Department.

"Having the Chief at meetings like this one just didn't happen ten years ago," said Murray.

He mentioned a survey done years ago by the University of Washington's Communications Department that looked at perceptions about the LGBT community, and suggested doing a similar one now might be useful for research purposes.

Murray also commented upon what he sees as shifting dynamics between the LGBT community and other various community resources. He said the Archdiocese of Seattle used to be a sort of safe haven for Seattle's LGBT population, or at least a good resource for them, while the police department in the past might have been apathetic, and sometimes antagonistic, towards Seattle's Gays. Now, said Murray, we have "better chiefs, and worse bishops."

A similar forum is set for Tuesday, November 27 at 6 p.m. at the Broadway Performance Hall. This forum is, "For the Capitol Hill and LGBT communities to discuss the issue of community safety in the neighborhood," says the press release.

A panel discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m., and be moderated by City Councilmember Sally Clark. Whereas the Speak Out encouraged discussion on several different topics, this second one will expressly address hate crimes. Others scheduled to be on the forum panel are Captain McDonough, City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Tom Rasmussen, and Home Alive Program Director Becka Tilsen.

"The Capitol Hill Open Forum is providing a panel of educated, invested community members to speak specifically about hate crimes and then open the forum to public comment," says the release.
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