Police Commissioner Anthony Batts

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / September 16, 2013)

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts will meet with members of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community this month to answer questions, address concerns and share progress that has been made within the department in the last year.

The April 14 community forum, organized by the police department's LGBT Advisory Commission that was founded last year, follows a lightly-attended hate-crime forum in Mount Vernon in October, where Batts and many of his top brass nearly outnumbered the attendees.

This time around, organizers said they are advertising the event more heavily and expect a much larger crowd, said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state's largest LGBT advocacy organization, and a member of the advisory commission.

At the forum, members of the commission will share some of their achievements within the department in the last year, Evans said, including its development of a new curriculum on LGBT issues and terminology for new police academy trainees; a video and other materials for the recruitment of LGBT officers; and a guide for LGBT citizens on how to interact with Baltimore police if stopped by officers or if they fall victim to a hate crime.

It is also reviewing how hate crimes are investigated and charged by Baltimore Police.

The stated mission of the advisory group is to improve interactions between police and members of the LGBT community and improve the environment for LGBT officers within the department. Batts created the commission after the LGBT community raised concerns about the severe beating of a gay East Baltimore man.

After the discussion about the commission's accomplishments, Evans said the forum will allow attendees "to have the ear of the commissioner" and ask questions.

Since taking over the police department in the fall of 2012, Batts has spoken openly about improving the department's relationship with the LGBT community, and Evans said the commission and the forum are extensions of that.

"This has been something the LGBT community in Baltimore has wanted for a long time, and we finally have a commissioner who sort of put his money where his mouth is and said, 'Let's do this,'" Evans said.

"The commissioner has stepped up and followed through with his commitment to ensuring the BPD is doing right by its LGBT residents and its LGBT officers," said Carlton Smith, of the Center for Black Equity, founder of Baltimore Black Pride and another commission member, in a statement. "We look forward to continuing this work with him and his staff."

The forum will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 14 at the Northwest District Community Action Center, at 3939 Reisterstown Road.