City of Cleveland to victim of anti-gay violence: Stop calling the police so much

The city sent a letter to a gay bar owner telling him his calls for police assistance are an "undue burden"

Topics: LGBT, LGBTQ, lgbtq rights, Gay Rights, anti-gay violence, anti-gay harassment, ,

The Cocktails Lounge gay bar in Cleveland, Ohio and its patrons have been repeat targets of anti-gay harassment and violence in recent months, including an incident in which a gay man was brutally beaten outside the bar and another in which a group of youths hurled cantaloupe-sized rocks at bar patrons.

There have been at least six such incidents since the spring, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and, as a result, owner Brian Lyons has called the police nine times over the last year.

But, according to a letter obtained by Towleroad, the City of Cleveland believes Lyons’ concern for his own safety and the safety of his patrons places an undue burden on the local police force and Cleveland taxpayers. (Presumably, Lyons and his patrons count themselves among the latter group, but I digress.)

“Repeated calls to the same property place an undue and inappropriate burden on the taxpayers of the City of Cleveland and on our safety forces,” writes Director of Public Safety Martin Flask.

In fact, Flask goes on to warn Lyons that if he doesn’t develop a plan to stop other people from attacking his bar and bar patrons the city will take legal action against him.

More from the letter:

Re: Property located at 9208

Our records indicate from September 02, 2012 through September 01, 2013 Cleveland Police Officers and/or Dog warden have been dispatched and responded to your property located at 9208 Detroit Avenue inns for various Calls for service. Repeated calls to the same property place an and inappropriate burden on the taxpayers of the City of Cleveland and on our safety forces. The estimated cost for the city safety forces to respond to your property is approximately $100.00 per call for service.

l am confident that we share the same goal and that you will take the necessary steps to eliminate the repeated calls for police services to your property. Therefore, within 10 days of the date of this letter, you will be required to submit your action plan to the First District Neighborhood Police Commander (623-5105), outlining your strategy to eliminate the problems at this location.

Failure to address these issues, resulting in future calls for police service, will be scrutinized for appropriate administrative or law enforcement action.

Sincerely,

Martin L. Flask, Director Department of Public Safety

cc: Director of Law Michael McGrath, Chief, Division of Poke Councilperson lay Westbrook, Ward 16 Deputy Chief Field Operations, Division of Police 1. District Commander

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Flask’s office released a followup statement to Salon:

The letter received by the owner of Cocktails on Detroit Avenue is not related to recent alleged hate crimes that are currently being investigated by the Division of Police.  Rather, it is an early warning letter that the Department of Public Safety sends to property owners to help prevent a location from becoming a “nuisance property”, as identified in Chapter 630 of Cleveland’s codified ordinances. 224 such letters have already been sent to various property owners this year.  The timing of this letter was an unfortunate coincidence. If I had to do it over again, I would have handled this particular situation differently.  After reviewing this issue with Mayor Jackson, he has directed me to rescind the letter and instead set up a meeting with the District Commander and the property owner so that we can work together to address the issues raised by the calls for service to 9208 Detroit Avenue. Cleveland Police responded to 9208 Detroit Avenue nine times between September 2, 2012 and September 1, 2013 for a variety of complaints, including fights, disturbances and robbery. 13 complaints were received during that time frame. None of these complaints were related to the alleged hate crimes that are currently being investigated.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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