Bil Browning

Gay man victimized then verbally abused by IMPD officer

Filed By Bil Browning | February 15, 2007 9:05 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: equal protection clause, IMPD, Indiana, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, police

cops.jpgA friend of mine, Mark Lee, gave me a call last night. You might know Mark too - he's a well-known local photographer and has shot several local LGBT couples for various organizations and his own show. Mark was recently the victim of a violent crime here in Indianapolis and he wanted to chat about his treatment by the police department.

Last Friday Mark was carjacked at around 5pm. He had just returned home when a young African-American male approached him and asked for a ride to 38th and College. Since it was freezing cold that day and he'd seen the young man around the neighborhood before, Mark took pity on him. He put his dog in the house and told the guy he'd give him a ride. Nice guy that Mark is, he didn't think twice of helping someone out on such a cold and blustery day. The guy hopped in the car and they took off.

As they were driving, the man told Mark to pull over around 25th Street. "By this point I noticed his hand was in his jacket, and I started to get scared, but I did what he asked in an attempt to keep things from becoming worse than they already were," Mark said. "After turning onto 25th, he had me turn onto the next street and stop the car two houses down." Luckily, the man only had a hammer instead of a gun, but with another gay man recently bashed in the head with a 2x4 a few months ago, Mark still complied. Mark pulled over, got out of the car and the man sped off in Mark's car.

Of course Mark called the police immediately. And then things went from bad to worse when Mark told them where he lived - one of Indy's well-known gay neighborhoods.

"Everything was fine till after I gave them all of the information they asked for, when one of the officers started yelling at me, and accusing me of looking for either drugs, or sexual favors, and then calling them when things went wrong," according to Mark. "I have never been so pissed off or humiliated in my entire life. And then they just left me there to walk home. Yes, I live in predominately gay neighborhood; but just because I am a gay man does not mean by any stretch of the imagination that I was looking to 'get lucky'. And it sure as heck does not give this officer, or any other officer for that matter, the right to verbally assault me."

To add insult to injury, Mark tried to call the Auto Theft division with more information about the carjacker that his neighbors provided after seeing the man in the neighborhood. "I called Friday, but they were already closed, and someone returned my call Monday morning, only to inform me that she did not have any information on my car being car jacked (she had the case number, but no detailed information)," Mark said. "This of course, leads me to wonder if any effort what-so-ever, was made to find my car."

With such an under-whelming response to his situation, Mark is appealing to the LGBT community to help him find his car. Mark described the car as, "a silver Chrysler Cyrrus, with a green tint to it. There is a sunroof, leather seats, and a black scuff mark on the rear bumper on the driver's side. The license plate number is 93N3422, and the suspect was last seen driving southbound from where my car was stolen at 4:49PM on Friday February 9th. There was nothing of monetary value in my car, but there were several sentimental items that no one else but me is going to care about: a multi-colored scarf that my cousin made for me, and my father's army jacket from the Korean war."

He would also like our help in finding his assailant. He says his car "was stolen by a black gentleman, anywhere from 18 to 24 years old, with dark skin, wearing a black oversized winter coat with a hood, baggy pants and tennis shoes. He had a little bit of peach fuzz on his chin, other than that, he was clean shaven."

Mark has filed a complaint with the Citizen's Police Complaint Department on Monday morning. As he summed up his experience with the new merged police department, Mark commented "It's odd to me that I feel more violated by the police officer who verbally assaulted me, than the gentleman who stole my car; but I do. It was reminiscent of a woman who is raped, only to have someone take one look at her and say "Well, your skirt is kind of short... looks to me like you were looking for trouble!" It was totally uncalled for, and did nothing more than make an already horrible situation, worse."

If you would like to register your displeasure with Mark's treatment by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, you can register your displeasure here. It's a pathetic state of affairs when a gay man is automatically accused of soliciting sex or drugs when he has just been a victim of a violent crime. Perhaps the officers could concentrate their efforts on finding Mark's car and the guy who robbed him instead of berating him for where he lives.

This reminds me of former contributor (and, ironically, also a local photographer) Scott Barnes's experience with Indy's finest. You might remember that Scott and his partner went to a local park where the police showed up to question them about why they were in the park. Apparently being gay is a suspicious activity in Indianapolis. Perhaps some diversity and sensitivity training would be appropriate for IMPD?

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Diversty and sensitivity training? I doubt that it would sink in. Seriously, there's a strong aversion to change and open-mindedness in this state from certain segments of our society. It's a depressing comment on our collective reality when victims of crime are ignored and ridiculed because of who they are.

Sad to note that many police departments around the country have similar issues.

Did he get a badge number or name for the cop? It's sad, but I always look at those while dealing with the police, and it should be a rule of thumb for all LGBT people.

I know that Mark filed his complaint and he even told me the name of the cop's partner. While he didn't specifically tell me the officer's number, I'm assuming that he did get that info.

Scott and I had the badge numbers. I called around, did some complaining...and NOTHING. IMPD doesn't give a shit if two men are harrassed out of a tax-payer supported public park at 11 in the morning in front of over a hundered people -- there was a large picnic that day. We wouldn't want the white(sheet-wearing) sraight people in this city to panic over a male couple talking on a park bench now, would we?

To this day, I can't even look into that park when we drive past it. The worst part of the expereince was the woman who called the police came over and stood on the other side of the police vehichles and stared at us the entire time. She could have at least done us a favor and donned her white sheet while she was standing there.

First off, thanks for the nice comments, e-mails, and phone calls from the several people who have read this blog. I still have not heard anything from the letter of complaint that I hand delivered on Monday, and no one seems to know where my car is; but at this point, I am happy to be alive. Period. There is one minor correction to what Bil wrote, and I wanted to go ahead and set the record straight: I had NOT seen the gentleman walking around my neighborhood prior to when he asked me for a ride; but it was freezing cold outside, and that is why I took pity on him. After walking home (from when I gave my police report), I stopped by a neighbor's apartment. She was driving away when he first asked me for a ride, and I thought she might have a better description of him than I did. That's when she informed me that both her and her husband saw the man who took my car walking around our neighborhood for the past month (and she then gave me a slightly better description of him than the one I originally gave to the police). Other than that, everything is precisely as Bil and talked about. I will keep people posted if I hear anything more.

I'm glad to hear that folks are contacting you to offer their support, Mark. While our community is often accused of being a bunch of praying mantises (we eat our own young!), it's heartening to hear of moments like this where we all come together.

Allen J. Lopp | February 15, 2007 10:23 PM

Mark, I sympathize with the pain of your experience. I also sympathize with your desire not to connect the actions of your carjacker with his race. But I must correct you on this point: A man (of whatever race) who threatens others with a hammer and steals an automobile does not need to be referred to as "gentleman" --- in what possible sense do you find his actions to be "gentle"? If you are using this term out of political correctness, you are carrying P.C. to a self-damaging extreme.

The man who forced you out of your card and stole it deserves to be called by the accurate terms: "man" "assailant" "thief" or "criminal". Stand up for yourself completely, and do not refer to this man who violated your rights so dangerously as a "gentleman."

P.S. The policeman who accused you falsely and verbally abused you does not deserve to be called a "gentleman" either. Please don't.