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Community forum on safety urges reporting of anti-Gay incidents
Community forum on safety urges reporting of anti-Gay incidents
by Nick Ardizzone - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Police Capt. Paul McDonaugh fielded most of the questions from an audience of 200-plus concerned community members Tuesday evening at a forum to address the recent spike in anti-Gay assaults on Capitol Hill. The forum was held at Broadway Performance Hall and organized by the LGBT Community Center, the Seattle Commission on Sexual Minorities, and several Capitol Hill businesses including the SGN.

The seven panelists - Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata and Tim Burgess from the Seattle City Council, McDonaugh and Detective Kim Bogucki from the SPD, Mike Hogan from the bias crimes division of the King County Prosecutor's Office, and Becka Tilsen, program director for Home Alive - were asked a series of audience-submitted questions about community safety before the floor was opened.

Throughout the forum, the importance of reporting any and all incidents - even if one does not wish to file charges - was stressed repeatedly. Residents were reminded there was no way for the Seattle Police Department to intervene if they did not keep the police informed of attempted assaults. "Quite honestly," said Bogucki, "no victim, no crime."

Hogan observed the increase in coverage is encouraging more people to come forward and that several victims have told him the level of attention the cases are being paid in the media has caused them to report assaults they wouldn't have otherwise.

Capitol Hill's police presence was the topic of many of the questions. When asked how many officers were on duty at 2 a.m., McDonaugh replied there were from 17 to 20, all of whom had to attend to priority calls before any "pro-active cruising." An upcoming redistricting of neighborhoods will mean increased police density in Capitol Hill, however McDonaugh said there are no budgeted positions for bike patrols, and there are no plans for foot patrols in the near future.

When asked whether the SPD had been alerted to the particularly problematic area by Walgreens and Neighbours Nightclub, McDonaugh was reassuring. "The short answer is yes, we're aware of it," he said, offering to send "emphasis patrols." He then added that it was a "convenient location" for abuse.

A question about the amount of personal conduct training recruits undergo revealed that although officers are already required to go through the standard state-run training as well as city-run, Seattle-specific training sessions before they hit the streets, McDonagh acknowledged that continuing training is important. Hogan added that he was working with King County on a training video.

McDonaugh was positive on the topic of the revival of Q-Patrol, the volunteer safety escort organization that walked the Capitol Hill streets in the 1980s and '90s. "The short answer is yes, it's a valuable idea," he said. "I don't believe the department is opposed to it."

The open forum portion of the evening was abbreviated to the point that there was little opportunity for in-depth answers from the panel. A resident asked if the number of assaults in and around Gay bars is being tracked, and though the information is on file, it is not currently being compiled. One woman seemed prepared to take the panel to task on the issue of stressing complete reliance on the SPD, but midway through her question she turned to face the audience, rallied them with a plea to "claim our power," then returned to her seat amidst applause without waiting for a response from the panel.

In all, the panel heard only seven questions from the audience. Councilmember Sally Clark, who chaired the forum, emphasized the meeting was meant as the opening of a discussion between the community and officials and would hopefully lead to a deeper dialogue.

The forum ended with audience member Andrew Geske's story of his recent assault, where he was punched and dragged alongside a car. He reported the incident and felt the police handled his situation adequately. "I think we're going in the right direction," he said to the crowd.

When reached for additional comments, Geske reiterated his feelings about his personal experience and his desire for a safer community: "People were trying to say that the police weren't watching out for us, [but] I feel they were there for me when I was attacked," he said. "The meeting was an example that there are positive changes happening, but until there is better funding for the East Precinct I'm not sure we'll see a decline in violence toward our community."

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