A POLICE FORCE THAT MATCHES ITS COMMUNITY
The SFPD’s improved relationship with LGBTs is no accident. It’s thanks
largely to the work of organizations like the SF Police Officers
Pride Alliance , a five-year-old organization that’s grown to be
the city’s second largest police employee group.
Pride Alliance advocates on behalf of LGBT officers, assists with
outreach in the community, and provides input on sensitivity training.
there still some issues?” asked Officer Len Broberg of the Pride
Alliance. “Yes, I’m not going to whitewash that. Are there still people
with prejudice? Yes, but anytime you’re working with people, they’re
going to have their own prejudices. … The organization as a whole has
gotten much much better.”
Ultimately, he said, “you get
judged on your ability to do your job here.”
police dept today is very sensitive and aware of the gay community,”
said Castro Community on Patrol’s Greg Carey. “Today they are very responsive,
there are a lot of gay police officers, and Chief Gascon is very
focussed on resolving crimes by putting the focus on where the crimes
are taking place.”
That outreach yielded immediate
benefits. In 2002, a report by Communities United Against
Violence noted, “Over the past three years CUAV has documented a
decling overall in law enforcement misconduct and abuse. … This was in
large part due to the creation of the Transgender Police Task Force.
… Because of these efforts we have seen a dramatic improvement in
police sensitivity and responsiveness with a 33% decrease in cases of
reported police abuse.”
The Police Department’s
progress is perhaps most evident in its level of inclusion. “We have
over 200 LGBT cops,” said former Police Commission President Theresa
Sparks, explaining that LGBT recruiting has been a top priority for
“They made a dramatic effort particularly under
Heather Fong,” she said. “They go to street events, the democratic
clubs, the LGBT center, job fairs, they participate in Pride. …
Periodically they advertise in the gay press. The outreach is as much to
the gay community if not more than other communities.”
the advantages to maintaining a diverse police force: the ability to
match victims with officers uniquely qualified to assist.
you’re not comfortable with the officer that comes out, you can request
a different officer,” said Len. “And if they’re available, they’ll come
out. … You can’t shop for an officer for every different situation,
but you can say, ‘no offense, I’m not comfortable talking to you, but is
there a gay or lesbian offer that I could talk to?’ … The main
purpose of the officer coming out is to get as much information as
possible. And if the person is in an emotional state, you want to try to
set them as much at ease as possible.”
Integrating LGBTs into the Police
Department may be the city’s best weapon in the fight to pursue
emotionally sensitive and under-reported hook-up crimes.
transgender cops and having sensitivity training — and the contact
between transgender cops and other cops — has impacted the relationship
between the transgender community and the SFPD officers,” said Sparks, who is herself transgender.
a number of challenges remain.
“One issue has been a
lack of success in recruiting gay men,” said Sparks. “We seem to
have been more successful in recruiting women than men. … I don’t
know what it is. the salary is very good.” Officers can expect to earn
in the high sixty-thousands in the Academy, and over seventy thousand
not long after graduating.
“We lost a huge number of
gay men back during the AIDS crisis,” she went on. “So the leadership of
gay men in the department is very sparse. I think the highest ranking
gay man is a Sergeant. We have one Lieutenant who’s a transgender man.
And a few lesbians who are Captains and Lieutenants.”
is particularly difficult among those old enough to remember when
relations were at their worst.
“A lot of incidents in
the past were still fresh in people’s minds,” said Pride Alliance’s Len
Broberg. “What people have to to is let go of the past. … The
Department has moved forward quite a bit.”
In a sense, the current focus on hook-up
violence is a fluke — a confluence of several unrelated factors.
its own, we might not’ve seen this particular impact of a bad economy,
or of the ubiquity of anonymous sex via sites like Grindr and
Craigslist, or of the historical challenges to LGBT representation in
the SFPD, or of reluctance to report sensitive crimes.
this “perfect storm” of obstacles will be difficult, but with hard work
and community support, public safety organizations are confident that
they can help protect people.
That community support is
a crucial ingredient. Crime victims need to speak up, friends need to
watch out for one another, and residents need to be attentive to their
neighbors and neighborhoods.
“I would encourage the
community to approach officers and let them know what you need,” said
Officer Len Broberg. “We have a community realtions group now, tasked
with reaching out to communities within San Francisco to improve
Like the crime-statistic-crunching CompStat, the SFPD’s new Community Relations Unit
is an initiative of new police chief George Gascon. Since coming to San
Francisco, he’s emphasized
community policing, smaller beats, and more hands-on involvement.
The Community Relations Unit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
can also get involved with public safety by contacting Communities United Against Violence and Castro Community on Patrol.
Both organizations work tirelessly to provide services for crime
victims, volunteers, and neighborhood groups.
course, CCOP’s Greg Carey pointed out, “the police can’t be there 24
hours a day, and the Castro Patrol isn’t on the streets 24 hours a day.
It’s really important that each individual take care of their own
well-being, watch out for strangers who might be in need of help, and
call police if they see something even a little suspicious.”
dealing with hook-up violence or any other crime, the key is to take an
active role not only in your own safety, but in the safety of the
“As a community,” Greg said, “we
take care of each other.”