Bar raid prompts liquor board changes

November 5, 2009 2:24:05 PM PST
Texas' liquor board plans to change the way it conducts investigations into excessive use of force allegations, the agency said Thursday, after its agents were accused of wrongdoing during a raid at a gay bar that left a customer with severe head wounds. Fort Worth police, who assisted during the raid, also plan to change their policies on bar checks and public intoxication arrests in light of the raid, Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said at a news conference across from the bar.

However, the investigation by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission did not find that the bar was targeted because of its gay and lesbian customers, and said agents didn't use force beyond what was necessary and reasonable. An inquiry by Fort Worth police also determined its officers didn't use excessive force.

Fort Worth and liquor board officials had been on what police billed as a routine license inspection for a new business when they arrived at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28.

TABC agent Chris Aller and agent trainee Jason Chapman were accused of targeting the business because it was a gay bar. They also were accused of using excessive force when they arrested Jose Macias, George Armstrong and Chad Gibson during the bar check.

Those three were among six people arrested for public intoxication. Gibson suffered a severe head injury while in the agents' custody, the agency and police have said. The raid led to numerous protest marches and rallies by gay rights groups, which demanded independent investigations.

The liquor board cleared the agents of using excessive force in its 74-page report but also said they violated several policies that night, said TABC Administrator Alan Steen. Aller, Chapman and their supervisor, Sgt. Terry Parsons, were fired, the agency said in August as a result of the policy violations.

"I want to take another opportunity to say that this is not how we treat people, and we have been looking at this from every angle to find ways to make sure it does not happen again," Steen said.

The TABC said it will hire additional internal affairs investigators who will handle use of force allegations instead of allowing officers' supervisors to investigate. The agency also plans to review its officer hiring process; make policy changes designed to increase supervisor oversight; and hire an inspector to monitor enforcement and compliance. It also wants TABC regional liaisons to reach out to various community groups.

Fort Worth Police investigated eight officers, clearing five of all wrongdoing and ordering brief unpaid suspensions for three who violated policies. Two of those were suspended for one day, the other for three days.

Rainbow Lounge manager Randy Norman said he was outraged by the punishment of only a few days suspensions for the Fort Worth officers.

"That's a joke, a slap on the hand," he said.

Halstead said he doesn't believe the officers went into the bar with malice but apologized for the "fear and confusion" they generated that night. He said people's perception of what is excessive force and law enforcement's standard for proving it are different.

"I did what I thought was fair, what I can prove and what I can live with," Halstead said.

      QUICK HEADLINES | MORE TEXAS | GET NEWS ALERTS
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
ABC13 SOCIAL NETWORKING
Find us on Facebook® | Follow us on Twitter | More social networking
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MORE FROM ABC13
ABC13 widget | Most popular stories | Street-level weather
ABC13 wireless | Slideshow archive | Help solve crimes
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Load Comments