Richard and Denis Warren-Tangney
A gay couple claim they were threatened and verbally abused by a homophobic Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officer at a roadblock.
Richard Warren-Tangney told MambaOnline that the incident happened shortly before midnight on Saturday night. He and his husband Denis, an attorney, were on their way home after watching a drag show at Melrose Arch when they were stopped by a female officer near Victory Park.
“When she demanded I alight from our vehicle, and I noted that there was only one vehicle, no wagon, no road cones, only two officers, and that the area was very dark, my suspicions that all was not right heightened,” Warren-Tangney says.
According to Warren-Tangney, he was faced with aggressive behaviour from the officer almost immediately upon being stopped.
He was ordered to take a breathalyser test on a device that he believes was not working as it did not have a tube to blow into. He was accused by the officer of being over the drinking limit and threatened with arrest.
The officer refused to answer specific questions from Warren-Tangney’s husband relating to the validity of the roadblock, the breathalyser machine and the processes to be followed. Things got worse, he says, when she realised that the men are a same-sex couple.
When Warren-Tangney insisted on taking another legitimate breathalyser test he was allegedly verbally abused by the officer. “She kept making remarks about I should know how to blow, and not suck. Eventually, she was almost shouting at me, ‘It’s blow, not suck!'” he claims.
“Once the result showed I was below the limit, I demanded my license back and told her she had no reason to keep my husband and I there,” Warren-Tangney says.
“She then started to go off about being gay. And this was when she shouted at me that ‘the only reason you want to go home is so your husband can f*** you in the a**. She [also] told me I needed to marry a woman…
“She gave me my license back at some point but then started to encroach into my personal space getting closer and closer. I started backing off towards my car as I was now petrified that she was trying to make physical contact that would allow her to claim that I physically assaulted her, a female police officer.”
Warren-Tangney got back into the car and the couple were able to drive off. The incident has brought back old emotions and highlighted the ever-present potential for anti-LGBTQ abuse.
“It made both of us alternately angry and very very sad and unaccepted. For me there was a huge element of fear. I have been bullied and experienced physical homophobic attacks in the past; of being locked away just for being who I am,” says Warren-Tangney.
He adds: “What made it worse was that it was coming from people who are supposed to protect everyone, no matter who they are.”
Asked if he believes that the roadblock was an attempt to extort money from motorists, he chose not to comment. He does say that after posting about the incident on Facebook he has been contacted by others who alleged that they were stopped at the same roadblock and pressured for bribes.
Warren-Tangney has since contacted his local counsellor, the MMC for Safety and Security, and police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar. He is also lodging a complaint with JMPD Internal Affairs.