Metro Weekly

Activists Blast Furr Sentence

DC Trans Coalition and GLOV say punishment devalues transgender people

Members of the District’s LGBT community are slamming the decision yesterday by D.C. Superior Court Judge Russell Canan to suspend the sentence of Metropolitan Police Department Officer Kenneth Furr, convicted in October of assault with a dangerous weapon and solicitation of prostitution. The convictions follow an Aug. 26, 2011, incident in which Furr flashed a gun and threatened to shoot two men outside a Chinatown-area CVS after Furr sexually propositioned their transgender female friend.

As Metro Weekly reported Thursday, Canan suspended 46 months of a 60-month sentence for the assault with a dangerous weapon charge; and suspended a 30-day sentence for the solicitation charge. The remaining 14-month sentence was applied to the 14 months served during Furr’s arrest till the time of his conviction. Furr was acquitted of seven other charges in October.

The DC Trans Coalition, which had filed a community impact statement with Judge Canan prior to Thursday’s sentencing, today released a statement critical of the proceedings.

”This result is the product of a legal system that constantly devalues trans people’s lives,” DCTC member Jason Terry said in the statement. ”Officer Furr’s defense team actively sought to portray the victims as somehow deserving of this violence, and apparently they succeeded. If roles had been reverse and a trans woman had gotten drunk and flashed a gun at a police officer, the results would be drastically different.”

The DCTC release also cited data showing that members of the transgender community are reluctant to call authorities when in need of police assisatance, and that transgender people of color are more than two-and-a-half times more likely than other members of the LGBT community to face violence from police.

”Officer Furr exemplifies why this fear exists,” Terry said. ”D.C.’s trans communities face blatant discrimination, harassment, and violence from police officers every day, yet when an officer drunkenly shoots at trans people, accountability seems to disappear.”

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), a program of The DC Center, joined with DCTC in criticizing Furr’s sentence.

”GLOV stands in solidarity with community members in expressing outrage at the sentencing of MPD Officer Kenneth Furr,” GLOV spokesman Hassan Naveed said in a statement released today. ”This appalling sentence devalues the lives of transgender people in our city and further perpetuates fear among the community in reaching out to police for needed services.”

Since October, Furr has been serving three years of supervised probation. Canan also ordered Furr to register as a gun offender, undergo substance-abuse treatment for alcohol, undergo anger-management therapy, perform 100 hours of community service, and pay $150 to the Victims of Violent Crime Fund.

In his statements during sentencing, Canan acknowledged that he had received a community impact statement from DCTC and said he was aware that members of the transgender community feel harassed by the police. He also granted that DCTC members were wary of the jury finding Furr not guilty on other charges related to Furr firing his weapon at the group, including two transgender women.

But Canan also said that while he understood the concerns of the transgender community, he did not believe the jury’s verdict was based on any bias against transgender people. Rather, he said, while chastising Furr for a reckless use of alcohol and other behavior, it was more a case of the jury not believing there was sufficient evidence to convict Furr of the charges related to the shooting.

Canan further noted that Furr was not found ”innocent” of the charges, but rather ”not guilty,” and said that Furr was ”fortunate” that none of the five in the car at the time of the shooting had died.

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