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A cold case murder of a transgender woman in Hollywood and the recent vandalism of a marriage equality banner at Hollywood United Methodist Church were among the issues discussed by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at a forum on March 10 held at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza.
Beck and other members of the department’s command staff held the forum to bolster relations between the LAPD and the gay community. Investigators from the LAPD’s Hollywood Division announced a renewed effort to solve a cold case homicide involving a transgender woman who was murdered in 2004.
The victim, Bella Martinez, was found shot to death inside her apartment at 1837 N. Gramercy Pl. on August 20, 2004. Martinez allegedly worked as a prostitute on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood and West Hollywood. Det. Brett Goodkin, with the Hollywood Homicide Unit, said police have no leads in the case and are seeking help from the public. Martinez went by several names, including Tara and Monique, as well as Miguel Martinez and Juan Carlos Martinez. Anyone with information is asked to call (213)972-2902 or (213)972-2912.
“We won’t solve this unless somebody help us,” Goodkin said. “Somebody knows who did this, and we want them to come forward.”
Officials also said recent incidents at the Hollywood United Methodist Church on Highland Avenue, where the word “Equality” was cut out of a banner in support of marriage equality for the second time two months, are also causing concern. Lt. Michael Oreb, of the Hollywood Division, said no arrests have been made and no new information has come in about the incident. He asked anyone who knows anything about the incidents to call police at (213)972-2900.
Other topics of the forum, which was attended by approximately 20 people, included how police personnel are trained to interact with the LGBT community, how complaints are handled, and how members gay community can become more involved with the police department. Beck stressed that officials are always seeking input on how the department can be more responsive.
“This police department belongs to the people of Los Angeles, this is your police department, and we are responsible to you. So it is important that we hear from you so we can make adjustments based on your input,” Beck said. “It’s about transparency, and making what we do open to examination. Only through giving an explanation of what we do, only through planning and picking goals, will we be able to become partners.”
Capt Beatrice Girmala, commanding officer at the Hollywood Division, said there are many opportunities for the LGBT community to get involved. The LAPD will be holding a community police academy for the LGBT community running April 7 through June 2 that is designed to educate people about the department. Some of the topics covered will be hate crimes, the department’s use of force policy, and criminal laws and laws of arrests. The course is being offered through the department’s Community Relations Section, and information is available by calling Alessandra Moura at (213)486-6000.
Additional portions of the forum included information on training and filing complaints. Deputy Chief Terry Hara, of the Personnel and Training Bureau, said programs are in place to ensure officers are familiar with the needs of the LGBT community. He also encouraged members to become police officers as part of an effort to diversify the department.
“We want the department to be reflective of the community,” Hara said. “It’s important we recruit within the community, and we want to give our officers the foundations necessary that they have an understanding about the diversity in the community.
Lt. David Crew, with the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Group, AID-West Section, added that any complaints made against personnel are taken very seriously.
“Every thing is a priority to us, every single complaint,” Crews said. “Everything goes through the review process, and we want to make sure we are transparent.”
Anyone who has experienced a problem and wants to make a complaint should visit any LAPD community police station. Instructions are also available at www.lapdonline.org.
An additional forum for the LGBT community is scheduled on June 2 at 6 p.m. at the Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place.
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