This may be no surprise to any of you, but I work for a police agency and serve an absolutely amazing community.
If you didn’t know that, well… surprise!
The one thing that’s always had me scratching my head was “why don’t we have LGBTQ Liaison Officers within our police departments as well as pieces of training so we can better serve that community?”
We’re going to look into the benefits of having those positions and what that looks like within the world of law enforcement and the LGBTQIA+ Community and what it looks like to implement these positions and training. I will admit this is going to be rather dry and statistically heavy but there’s a major importance in the numbers.
That said, let’s dive in and look at the numbers that are provided by The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services:
“A national survey of LGBT people found that 73% of LGBT people and people living with HIV who responded reported face-to-face contact with law enforcement in the past five years:
- 25% of respondents who had contact with police experienced at least one type of misconduct or harassment, including profiling, false arrests, verbal or physical assault, or sexual harassment or assault.
- LGBT people of colour, LGBT people under 30, low-income LGBT people and transgender respondents were much more likely to report police misconduct or harassment.
- LGBT people of color were five times more likely than white LGBT respondents to be asked about their immigration status by law enforcement officers.”
Now, as an individual who is both part of LGBTQ and law enforcement communities, I am astounded by the fact that 25% of individuals faced any kind of misconduct and/or harassment. Then to be at risk to be asked about immigration status?
Mind you, this is a national survey. Much like watching the news when they speak about national surveys, I sit here thinking “I didn’t take this!” So much like my article Race and Gender Identity-Motivated Hate Crimes on the Rise, only a portion of these instances are being reported. What the actual number is, we can only speculate.
Now when we focus on the transgender community, The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services provided this statistic:
As a transgender woman who also identifies as a lesbian, I sit here wondering why this happens. Why is there discrimination, abuse, harassment and victimization of the transgender community by the very same people who are sworn to uphold constitutional values and the laws set in place by their respective state? How is this even acceptable?
As previously stated, I spoke on hate crimes already but the police joining in on it? Much like the prior statistics, this is based on a small survey pool. I can guarantee you that there are more than 27,000 transgender individuals in the U.S.
This tumultuous relationship between the LGBTQIA+ community and the police isn’t anything new though. Look at Stonewall, Compton’s Cafeteria Riot and the raid on the Black Cat Tavern in LA. I can’t and won’t be blind to the LGBTQIA+ history and the issues that existed for years. We still fight for our freedoms, rights and safety today.
I found that there is something to be said when the LGBTQIA+ community starts to inspire change within law enforcement from the inside out.
I’ve been able to build sustainable and respectful working relationships within the world of law enforcement and still be myself without issue, and I have been able to help educate and even perhaps in some instances provide a different perspective or understanding so we can better serve our community.
I decided to get into law enforcement for a multitude of reasons but as it relates to the LGBTQIA+ community, I think it allows the community to look to me as a safe resource as well as someone who gets it and understands the struggle to just exist and navigate a world that at times is against their sheer existence. Things have gotten better over the past few years, but we have a long way to go.
We need to continue to work on implementing programs for continued education and safety. There are police departments that have done just that. The Boston Police Department issued a standard for police contact with transgender individuals. The standard requires that all officers use the name and pronouns the transgender individual prefers, and also lists changes to policies regarding stops, frisks, searches, transportation, booking as well as the holding environment.
So what can we do overall when it comes to changing policy to better serve our LGBTQIA+ community and what does it look like being an LGBTQIA+ Liaison officer?
- Update department policies as they relate to the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Educate the whole department about the lGBTQIA+ community and ensure that there is a zero-tolerance policy in place for discrimination, assault, or any other hate crime carried out against a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Create a cheat sheet of sorts for officers in the field to reference when it comes to sexual preference and gender identity so they can appropriately understand and address the individual with the respect they deserve.
- Make it a standard to use the preferred name and pronouns of transgender, and any GNC (gender nonconforming) individuals. As well as establish an appropriate policy regarding the search and seizure of these individuals.
- Sit down with LGBTQIA+ individuals and community centers and work together to ensure they are heard, visible, and valued by police. Have the tough conversations and find solutions and compromise. Avoiding it isn’t helping anyone and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how receptive both parties can be. (I know this from experience)
Overall, this is just a brief idea of what we can do and some statistics speaking to the need for these programs being put in place. The most important step in all of this is keeping a working relationship strong and doing evaluations, spot checks and reporting.
When it comes to the relationships built, have conversations, ask questions. What can we do better to serve the LGBTQIA+ community? Be open to feedback. Look at statistics for the increase or hopeful decrease in hate crimes and find a way to combat it. Eliminate it from the police departments.
I feel incredibly fortunate that I don’t face that or have that in my current role and police agency. I am happy to report that we are taking the right steps to build a strong relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community. It is possible.
The previous writing is based on the writers’ opinions, experience and training as well as information gathered from the following citation. It in no way reflects the writers’ employers/agency’s beliefs and values and she does not speak for the agency in any capacity.
As always, please be respectful in the feedback, questions or concerns.
Cited: Copple, James E., and Patricia M. Dunn. 2017. Gender, Sexuality, and 21st Century Policing: Protecting the Rights of the LGBTQ+ Community. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.