blue bloods

Why Is The Atlanta Police Department Shunning Intersex LGBT Liaison Dani Lee Harris?

Dani Lee Harris, the intersex Atlanta City Police officer who a year ago became the face of the Atlanta Eagle bar raid scandal as the LGBT liaison, says she’s been all but shunned by the force. APD hired a second liaison, then somebody to specifically replace Harris while she was on medical leave. But she’s been cleared to return to work for some time now, and yet “they keeping me out,” she says.

Harris, who last year served as the first intersex grand marshal of Atlanta’s LGBT Pride, wants answers.

In May, a second gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered liaison, Patricia Powell, was hired. Harris, the APD said, was on medical leave. Last Wednesday, she was effectively replaced when the APD announced the promotion of Ofc. Brian Sharp to assist Powell in improving relations with the gay community. As for Harris — still on leave, according to APD spokesman Carlos Campos.

But Harris, 37, said she was cleared to return to work six months ago, even though she had just suffered a seizure — her second in less than a year. The second seizure — stress-related, her doctor says — followed a “really nasty, derogatory comment” by a civilian colleague whom Harris doesn’t want to identify. She said she tried to file a complaint with the department’s Office of Professional Standards but was told to go home.

That was April 15.

Harris said she hasn’t been allowed to return and hasn’t received a paycheck since June. Friends and supporters will hold a benefit concert for Harris 3 p.m. Saturday at the Power Center, located at 2133 Hills Ave. in Atlanta. She suspects her superiors are trying to protect the colleague who, Harris alleges, made the derogatory remark about her sexuality. Harris is intersex, someone whose internal or external sexual anatomy or chromosomes don’t fit the typical definitions of female or male at birth or puberty.

Just this week, it appears, Harris learned of the personnel moves taking place inside the department.

When CL contacted Harris earlier today, she was unaware that a second liaison had been hired in her absence. “That’s news to me,” Harris said. “I Still haven’t heard anything from them, but it’s good to know they officially hired another [liaison]. At least my attorney will believe me when I say that they weren’t trying to put me back [in the position] to begin with.”

Harris initially ruffled feathers within the department when she commented to the media following the APD’s raid of the Atlanta Eagle in 2009, but says she was “blackballed” after filing an Office of Professional Standards complaint shortly thereafter, one she can’t discuss in detail because of pending legal action.

And the APD is remaining mum about Harris’ status. APD Public Affairs Manager Carlos Campos says,
“No decision has been made on [Officer Harris], no permaninent decision. It’s in a holding pattern. It’s a personnel matter and it’s not something I’m at liberty to discuss in any detail.”

Which if true would mean the Atlanta Police Department, working so hard to improve its relationship with the gay community, has developed a new tick: covering up discrimination against intersex staffers. A round of applause, everybody!

[Atlanta Journal Constitution, Creative Loafing, Project Q Atlanta]