An LGBTQ presence in law enforcement is a big contributor to the advancement of LGBTQ rights. It is important for a community to see themselves reflected in the makeup of police forces to instill confidence in those groups. As well, the diminishing of hate crimes, such as homophobia, is accomplished to a great degree when victims, or potential victims, of such crimes are part of the solution. It is equally important, then, for LGBTQ law enforcement officers themselves to be open and public about their sexual orientation and to be free from the fear of discrimination or hostility in their work environments.
Analyzing the relationship between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement officers is challenging. On one hand, there are the historic and current issues of discrimination by law enforcement officers towards the community itself – indeed, LGBTQ activism is often rooted in police hostility directed at the community. On the other hand are the more current stories of support and acceptance between the two groups, and the genuine integration of out and proud officers and management within the police forces (for an inspirational video on this experience, see the video interview of lesbian Lupe Valdez, Sheriff of Dallas County, Texas).
Today, there are many LGBTQ officer support organizations in police forces around the world. Many of these organizations participate in LGBTQ community events such as Pride Parades. A European Gay Police Association (EGPA) was formed in 2004 with subsidiary organizations in EU member countries. Serving With Pride is the Canadian equivalent, and organizations such as the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) exist in the United States.
Nevertheless, there remains an element of fear amongst law enforcement officers for their careers and working relationships as they rise among the ranks, as noted in the Independent newspaper article below. Having out and proud LGBTQ individuals in position of management and responsibility is vital to the minimization of discrimination and homophobia in the forces themselves.
We have identified the following notable LGBTQ police and law enforcement officers around the world. Some are officers in the field, others government ministers, human rights commissioners, and senior management. Some have made notable contributions in the field: Carl Hansen Fahlberg of Denmark introduced the concept of finger printing to the profession, and Sharon Lubinski of the United States was the first lesbian or gay Marshall in that country. Some of have been infamous, such as the closeted J. Edgar Hoover who founded the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Click on their names to read their fascinating biographies.
I think the USA needs to take a note from Europe…..
The European Gay Police Association (EGPA) is a European network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender police-officers serving the LGBT community
The first conference was held in Amsterdam in 2004. In 2005 the Gay Police Association hosted an EGPA conference in London to coincide with the UK GPA’s 15th anniversary. Subsequent conferences have been held in Stockholm (2006), Barcelona (2008) and Vienna (2010). In London, Stockholm and Vienna, the European Police officers also attended the national Gay Pride event, marching in uniform.
The EGPA, working through conferences, annual meetings and networking events has assisted with the establishment of LGBT support groups in Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Belgium, France and Austria.
These groups have subsequently same as on to support the development of LGBT policing policies in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.