One year ago, Atlanta Police Ofc. Dani Lee Harris was the public face of a department embroiled in controversy following the ill-fated raid of a Midtown leather bar.
"She didn't know about the raid beforehand, but was willing to stand up and answer questions on behalf of both the APD and our community on a very controversial issue, " said J. Sheffield of Atlanta Pride, the city's annual celebration of gay unity.
But despite the kudos, Harris has seen her role within the police department diminish, if not disappear.
"Why are they keeping me out?" Harris asked.
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.
Last month she filed a complaint with the Atlanta Citizens Review Board alleging sexual discrimination and harassment. But the complaint wasn't heard because it didn't fall under the board's jurisdiction. Harris' attorney has also sent letters to Mayor Kasim Reed's office and to APD Chief George Turner.
"No response," Harris told the AJC.
She isn't the only one seeking an explanation about her unwanted leave of absence.
"I've spoken with [Harris], and she's not very happy," said radio producer Betty Couvertier at the first meeting of the APD's newly formed GLBT Advisory Board. "We don't know what happened to Dani. There's a lot of questions."
And still few answers.
"The department will refrain from commenting on the status of an employee out on leave, particularly when there are medical issues with attached privacy concerns," said APD spokesman Carlos Campos. "It should be noted that our commitment to developing a better relationship with the GLBT community has not wavered, but in fact gained strength."
Harris said her attorney has advised her to report for duty Oct. 15 -- the six-month anniversary of her last seizure.
"I know I won't be the GLBT liaison, but I don't care. I just want to work," she said.
If she's not allowed, Harris said she will explore all legal options.
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