Boston Police Face Allegations of Discrimination

Gay and Lesbian Harassment Debated by Boston City Council

Allegations that the Boston Police Department and other city offices are guilty of harassing gay and lesbian residents prompted a special subcommittee meeting of the Boston City Council Thursday.

The Public Safety Committee met last week to investigate the extent to which gays and lesbians in the city's work force have suffered harassment and discrimination by co-workers. The subcommittee is also investigating alleged violence against gays and lesbians by members of the Boston police force.

Members of the gay and lesbian community who have allegedly suffered discrimination by police testified at the start of the public meeting.

Boston resident Todd McKay told the committee that police officers insinuated that he and a male friend who "were sitting in [a] car talking," were having sex. "The police yelled `Hey faggot' and `Fucking queer' and then arrested me," McKay said.

Sabrina Von Butiz, a transvestite, also reported being harassed by members of the police force. He said he had been "verbally assaulted, beaten, intimidated and arrested" by the police because of sexual orientation.


A member of the Cambridge Human Rights Commission, Jonathan Handel '82, also reported witnessing incidents of police homophobic violence in Boston.

Handel said he had seen a policeman call a gay pedestrian a "faggot", and he also testified that the police department was purposefully slow in responding to reports of harassment of gays and lesbians."

The Boston City Council also heard testimony evidencing discrimination against gay and lesbian employees of the city.

Despite his ten years in the Boston Fire Department, Robert Jackson has not been promoted to the rank of officer merely because he is gay, the firefighter claimed. Jackson also said he is not allowed to eat with other firemen in the department because of his homosexuality.

"No one wants to work in a fire house where there are gays," Jackson said, adding that when his co-workers say "Kill gays" in front of him their harassment goes unpunished Jackson said he is often forced to wash dishes in the Fire Department instead of being sent of fight fires.

The veteran firefighter also maintained that he has been the object of overt harassment, receiving an Playgirl centerfold of a nude man, a pamphlet on AIDS and an anti-gay taped on his locker.

Boston City Councilor David Scondras '68 who convinced the subcommittee meeting presented further evidence of discrimination against gays and lesbians working in the Boston police force. He prepared a sample of the test required of all applicants to the Boston police force, in which he said there are questions "clearly designed to screen for homosexuality."

Some of the question of the text included those allegedly alluding to sexual preference and behavior." I am very strongly attracted by members of my own sex; I would like to be a florist; and I like mannish women" are some of the questions Scondras' office said enable police to eliminate gays and lesbians from the police force.

Based on this and other evidence of harassment of gays and lesbians in the city, Scondras' office prepared a set of recommendations that would enable the city to "improve relations between the Police department and Boston's gay and lesbian community."

Some of these include actively encouraging gay lesbian applicants to the police force, making investigation of homophobic violence a duty of the Police Department's Committee on Public Disorders, eliminating questionnaires on sexual orientation and supporting an extensive training program to teach police how to recognize homophobic violence and how to prevent it.

The report also s tatted that the city should work with the Fenway Community Health Center, Which has an extensive Gay and Lesbian Victim Recovery Program, to encourage documentation of acts of violence against gays and lesbians.

"Documentation is the key to apprehending homophobic violence" said French Wall '83 an administrative assistant to Scondras Wall said if consolers at the Health Center could encourage victims of homophobic violence to report that to the police, than the city could take measures to protect them.

The public Safety Committee will convene again next week to hear more testimony from members of the police force and the gay and lesbian community.

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