The First Six

LAPD's first openly gay and lesbian officers greet their community

 

It was June 22, 1991, the start of a festive Gay Pride weekend in West Hollywood. Though a typical sunny southern California summer day, it would be one of immense historical significance for the Los Angeles gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community. My community.

The pink of a Venice dawn shimmered through the mini-blinds, and taunted me with the knowledge that I hadn't slept a wink since my head hit the pillow. In a few short hours, I would witness the achievement of one of the community's most long-sought goals, one that had eluded activists more politically astute than I (such as Ivy Bottini, Morris Kight, Jim Kepner, and others), yet it was coming to fulfillment on my watch.

Six brave souls were risking it all by becoming the first openly gay and lesbian officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, a bastion of heterosexism, machismo and backward thinking. They were, in effect, hanging bulls-eyes on their backs. Not that coming out isn't risky for anyone daring to venture outside their closet doors. Every GLBT person knows that declaring who you really are can mean losing the love and respect of family and friends, your livelihood, your home, not to mention make you a target for those whose penchant for hate overshadows rational thought. I just happen to believe that the stakes are somewhat higher with immediate access to firearms thrown into the mix.

I understood the risk they were taking all too well, because I'd been there, in what now seems another lifetime. I recall all too clearly the emotional toll exacted by living a double life, the strain of keeping straight what fable you told to whom. Burned into my memory are the days of changing pronouns and making up boyfriends (conveniently in the military and stationed overseas) to avoid detection. First-hand experience taught me that in the law enforcement culture, even the mere suspicion of homosexuality would get you fired.

In 1973, while in my first police academy at the University of Georgia, I attended the drag show of a friend ("Kelly with a K does Liza with a Z") at the Student Union. Though I was off-duty, a campus cop working the event recognized me. He notified my superiors, who charged me with moral turpitude (lesbianism) before a disciplinary board. The first ten minutes of the hearing, my supervisors read from employment applications from major police agencies across the South, all of which included the clause "suspicion of homosexuality is grounds for immediate disqualification or dismissal."

During that hearing, I got my first taste of the bitter irony of the gay/lesbian officer's Catch 22: feeling called to public service in a profession in which personal integrity is paramount, yet having to sacrifice, rationalize, or otherwise betray that integrity in order to keep the badge.

I denied who I was, and because the administrators had no real proof of my sexual orientation, I was allowed to continue in the academy. It would not be the only time I would lie, hide, and deny who I was in order to keep my job. Nor would it be the only time that married senior officers dropped by my apartment unannounced, suggesting that with a simple blowjob, they would put an end to the rumors about me. Because "everyone" knew it was better to be known as a slut than a dyke. My refusals only served to stir their sordid, adolescent imaginations and fuel further rumors.

Although I actually did come out in 1976 while in the St. Louis, Missouri Police Academy, it was handled quietly, and was never an issue during my brief tenure. My regular partner had a lesbian sister, so he not only supported me, he watched my back. I never had to worry about backup on dangerous calls, verbal assaults, or any of the other scenarios familiar to closeted GLBT cops. The only discrimination I faced was when I was fired from my off-duty job with Brinks Security for being a security risk (someone spotted my car parked outside the Metropolitan Community  Church.)

Knowing of their refusal to hire gays and lesbians, I knew better than to apply to LAPD when I relocated to Los Angeles in 1977. I would have had to walk through fire to get hired, and I felt ill-prepared for so extensive a battle. So, in a way, June 22 was my coming out day, too.

How we arrived at that historic point was as much as factor of dumb luck and timing as it was political strategy. It was also one of those rare moments in time where people from diverse backgrounds forged an odd alliance in order to do the right thing, for no other reason than it was the right thing to do.

I was elected Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Police Advisory Task Force in 1990. The Task Force included representatives from many of the GLBT community's social, political, and religious organizations, as well as the owners of numerous gay and lesbian bars. We served as the liaison organization from the community to the Los Angeles Police Commission, advising them on community concerns, in addition to lobbying the City Council for support of our issues. One of our primary issues was creating an environment in which gay and lesbian LAPD officers felt comfortable coming out.

At the time, the Los Angeles Police Commission was reputed in civil rights circles to be little more than a rubber stamp for the wishes of the Chief of Police, Daryl F. Gates. A consummate politician, Gates possessed an iron will and exuded an aura of arrogance and self-righteousness that simultaneously emboldened his allies and outraged his critics. He earned the loyalty and respect of his troops by defending them wherever necessary, against all comers. Gates believed that the Los Angeles Police Department was the world's premier law enforcement agency, and he made his troops believe it, too. He set stringent standards, rewarding those who met or surpassed them, and making life miserable for those who missed the mark.

From the Commission, his troops, and often the Mayor, what the Chief wanted, he got, usually with little debate.

At the time, the rank of Commander was fourth from the top of the LAPD food chain, just below Deputy Chief. One of these Commanders functioned as the department's liaison to the city's many community organizations. Our liaison was Commander Bob Taylor, and he played a significant role in our efforts because he felt it was long past time that LAPD management pulled its head out of the sand and address the issues of GLBT personnel.

Despite our repeated requests, previous liaison officers had failed to arrange a Task Force meeting with the Chief. But Commander Taylor came through. On December 20, 1990, Task Force Co-Chair Mark Haskins, Vice Chair Sandra Farrington-
Domingue, Training Coordinator Art Mattox, and I entered Chief Gates' conference room for our first face-to-face sit-down.

Mark Haskins and I were a good team, partly because we were polar opposites in many respects. An art director in the film industry, Mark was a very outgoing, amiable person, with an often childlike naivete, and people couldn't help but like him. Always the eternal optimist, Mark believed anything was possible, even in the political arena. I, on the other hand, have always tempered my political idealism with equal portions of skepticism and pessimism, that way I'm rarely disappointed or surprised.

Mark believed that, given the opportunity to do the right thing, people would. Given my background, I'd become cynical enough to believe just the opposite. So Mark went into that meeting believing fervently that our brilliant presentation would force an epiphany, and the Chief would not only see, but admit, the error of his ways and change his policies regarding our community. I expected little more than the customary lip-service, knowing that it would take more than a good argument to turn around decades of institutional homophobia in an organization that repeatedly denied our very existence in their ranks.

Diplomacy has never been my strong suit, and I find political doublespeak not only annoying but a collosal waste of precious time. So when Mark and I met with government officials, he usually led the discussions. This was our version of good cop/bad cop. Once all the niceties were exchanged, and the official began detailing all the reasons why he or she could not support our requests, Sandra Farrington-Domingue and I (in a sort of tag-team) would jump in and cut to the chase, proffering the tough questions the official usually wanted to avoid. This often caught off-guard those who thought we were only along for window-dressing.

As we entered the conference room, Chief Gates was just finishing a briefing from Assistant Chief Bob Vernon, the department's second in command, and an arch-conservative, fundamentalist Christian known throughout the agency as the leader of the "God Squad". An Elder in his church, Vernon had taken a lot of heat when some audio recordings of sermons he'd delivered to his congregation started making the rounds. In them he quoted Bible passages to justify using boat oars to discipline (beat) a child or spouse who would not "submit" to the man of the house. His views on homosexuality were equally archaic.

I'll admit that my soul did a little dance when Gates asked Vernon to remain for our meeting, because I knew that he would rather take a bullet to the brain than breathe the same air as open, proud gays and lesbians. Even if we achieved nothing on our issues, at least we'd get to watch Bob Vernon squirm.

Mark and Art took seats at Chief Gates' end of the conference table with Commander Taylor. Sandy and I sat opposite each other next to Vernon at the other end. Vernon seemed to focus his attention on the wall of picture windows along the north wall of the room, fidgeting a bit as he tried to avoid eye contact with any of us.

Mark began the meeting with his customary ego massage, assuring the Chief that we appreciated the difficulty of his job, how hard it must be to police such a diverse population, yada yada yada. Then he shifted to what we perceived to be the department's selective enforcement of lewd conduct laws in the local parks and bars. Gates appeared to be listening intently, as though it were the first time he'd heard these complaints. Vernon continued to stare pensively out the windows.

Amid Gates' assertion that gays weren't specifically targeted in vice operations, I adjusted myself in my chair, and my boot accidentally brushed the tip of Chief Vernon's shoe. He froze, but looked as though he'd just taken a bite of something really nasty, and stared with lock-jawed defiance out the window. I forced myself to stifle the giggle surging to my throat.

From that point on, whenever I would voice an opinion, I would either preface or punctuate it with an "accidental" brush of the Assistant Chief's hand or foot with my own. The memory of his reaction is still one of my life's guilty pleasures.

My attention was diverted from torturing Vernon back to the discussion when I heard Mark request permission for openly gay and lesbian officers, in uniform, to distribute LAPD recruitment materials at our upcoming GLBT Pride Festival. Expecting an outright refusal, I steeled myself for the upcoming debate, but was stunned into silence when I heard the Chief quietly give his okay. Mark was so taken aback that he repeated the request, stressing the "in uniform" part, to which the Chief replied, "Yes, in uniform."

Mark, who always wore his feelings on his sleeve, tried his best to restrain his excitement. I waited for the other shoe to drop, feeling that we were being set up for a big fall. I figured that the only reason the Chief gave his approval was that he either didn't think there were gay and lesbian members of the department, or was betting that no one would be willing to state so publicly. Still, he had given the okay, so it was up to us to follow through.

We practically floated out of Parker Center after the meeting, but Sandy and I wondered where in the hell we would find an LAPD officer ready, much less willing, to become, in effect, the poster child of LA GLBT activism. We knew that if we didn't find at least one, future requests of a similar nature would be refused, noting our inability to locate participants this time around. Plus, we'd be providing substance to Gates' denials that there were any GLBT LAPD officers. We vowed to give it our best shot, but were less than optimistic about our ability to pull it off. But for Mark, those concerns were a non-issue because he was determined to find someone. And once he set his mind to accomplish something, he became like a junkyard dog with a ham bone, never turning loose of it until it was done.

About two months after the meeting, Mark and I were scheduled to team-teach the Gay and Lesbian Cultural Awareness Training at the police academy. He met me in the parking lot, looking like a mischievous kid plotting a prank on an unsuspecting younger sibling. He could barely contain his excitement as he gushed that he had found an officer willing to come out, a Reserve Officer of the Year at LAPD's Hollywood Division named Paul Butler.

My mind swirled with emotions, momentarily robbing me of the ability to respond, which Mark took to mean I was somehow displeased. Reserve officers at that time in the department were regarded only slightly higher than security guards, so I anticipated the argument that since he was only reserve, he wasn't a real LA cop, only a part-timer. Still, because Butler was a reserve, and made his real livelihood as an Emmy-winning screenwriter, he wouldn't be as negatively impacted financially should the department terminate him or find other ways to retaliate against him for his disclosure.

Although we had informed the Task Force membership of the Chief's approval, we had cautioned them not to get their hopes up, that locating and convincing gay and lesbian officersto participate would not be easy. When we introduced Paul at our next regular meeting, after the shock wore off, everyone got caught up in the excitement of making history. We decided not to talk to the media about it at first, fearing that too much media exposure too soon might discourage or intimidate other officers contemplating the step. Plus, the Task Force had never before hosted a booth at the festival, so we already had enough on our organizational plate.

Paul agreed to secure the standard recruitment materials used by the department at job fairs and other events. Mark, the art director, took charge of the layout, decor, and signage of the booth. He and I shared a similarly twisted sense of humor, so we joked about creating a mobile to hang from the booth's ceiling out of police-issue side-handled batons, and empty coffee cups with fake bullet holes as well as stale donuts dangling from it. We were hard pressed to know which was funnier, scheming the original idea, or the reactions of members who took us seriously and were mortified by it.

I owned a print shop, so I agreed to write and produce informational brochures for distribution on topics such as "what to do if you're arrested" and "if you're the victim of a hate crime." Richard Slaughter, who represented Christopher Street West, producers of the pride festival and parade, agreed to lobby their "powers that be" to give us a high traffic location for our booth, knowing that our community had waited decades for the opportunity to meet and greet one of their own serving openly and proudly in an LAPD uniform.

Amid the flurry of festival preparations came the videotaped beating of Rodney King, which shocked the nation and changed the political climate in Los Angeles in countless ways.

Chief Gates deemed the incident an aberration even before the internal investigation could be completed, but human rights activists in the city knew otherwise. To them, the only surprising or shocking thing about white cops pounding the crap out of a black man was that someone recorded it on videotape. The community clamored for an independent investigation of the incident, skeptical of the LAPD's ability to objectively police its own.

Mayor Tom Bradley, a former LAPD Lieutenant, appointed a blue ribbon commission to investigate not only the King incident but also the culture of the department, to ascertain if it is intrinsically biased against minorities, covers up, and/or tacitly approves of abuses by officers under color of authority.

The Commission, chaired by the esteemed attorney (and soon-to-be U.S. Secretary of State) Warren Christopher, solicited testimony from countless community organizations, and announced public hearings at which citizens could state their experiences, and grievances, with the LAPD.

It was as though the Mayor had declared a "Pitch Your Bitch Month" for minorities in the City of the Angels. As the representative body from our community dealing with law enforcement issues, I felt it incumbent upon us to take the lead in our community's response to the King incident. To me, someone had to be held accountable for those officers overstepping the bounds of their authority (in addition to the officers themselves), and, in my mind, that person was the top cop, Daryl Gates.

Some task force members argued that since we were an advisory body to the Police Commission, we should stay out of politics, because it would negatively impact our credibility with the Commission. Others worried that calling for Gates' resignation would result in him rescinding permission for officers at the pride festival. Despite those reservations, consensus was to join the press conference convened at the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center and call for the resignation of the Chief of Police.

I have often said that our community owes Rodney King its gratitude, because this incident brought a national spotlight to not only the issue of law enforcement's proclivity for the use of excessive force against minorities, but on the mind-set that feeds it. Certainly, the LAPD had never before been under such a microscope, and it occurred to many in the civil rights community that the department would be on its best behavior, at least for the duration of the Christopher Commission investigation. I believe that this new environment at the department was instrumental in what happened next regarding our plans for the pride festival.

Shortly after I testified before the Christopher Commission, I received a call from Marc Goodman and Karen Kos, who represented an organization of GLBT police officers, Pride Behind the Badge (PBB). I hadn't even known such a group existed, and was even more surprised to learn that many of PBB's members were sworn LAPD personnel. The group had heard that the task force had been given permission for openly gay and lesbian officers to appear in uniform at the pride festival, and stated that five of them wished to participate.

Where there had been only one, we now had six.

Task force members delighted in the new development, and, though I don't know who tipped off David Smith, the media director at The Center, he was suddenly in the loop of thosesworn to secrecy.

I notified Commander Taylor that we had personnel in place for the festival, but that I was concerned about department retaliation against these officers after the event. I requested, and received, a letter confirming that the officers had the Chief's imprimatur to appear at the pride festival in uniform, as discussed in our December meeting.

The officers from PBB requested that we not inform the gay media until shortly before the event, and urged us to keep the mainstream media out of it until after the weekend. They feared it would detract from the recruitment effort and quite possibly be seen as an opportunity to ridicule the department for its years of perceived mistreatment of our community at a time when it could least afford negative publicity. Regardless of its history, these officers were proud to be LAPD officers and wanted to remain so. I agreed to their request, not knowing at the time that I would not live up to my end of the bargain.

If I learned anything from this experience, it's that activists should not speak to members of the press while simultaneously attempting to do paperwork or other unrelated things.

David Smith at the Center (bless his rabblerousing soul) gave my phone number to Lisa Pope, a reporter for the LA Daily News, after hinting to her that something big was going down at the pride festival involving the task force and the LAPD. Because most of my telephonic strategy sessions with other community leaders usually took place from work, I was accustomed to carrying on these conversations while setting type, or performing some other job function. When I received Lisa's call, I was in the middle of setting type for a project on a tight deadline.

At the outset of our conversation, I deflected her questions about specifics, attempting to not reveal too much. As our chat progressed to the historically adversarial relationship our community has had with law enforcement, I sort of kicked into "automatic pilot", because I had addressed these

same questions, giving the same answers, countless times through years of conducting diversity training for law enforcement agencies. Before I knew it, the secret was a secret no longer.

Basically, I got distracted, and forgot with whom I was speaking. During the course of our casual, friendly conversation, I let my guard down with a reporter attempting to flesh out a story. It mattered little that she was supportive of us, she was a member of the media.

In all honesty, even after realizing what I'd done, I didn't think the Daily News was that big a deal. I'd never lived in the San Fernando Valley or otherwise felt inclined to read it, so in my mind it was on par with small neighborhood papers like the Hollywood Independent. That was a big mistake. And from there the story took on a life of its own.

My first clue that this story was a bigger deal than I anticipated should have been when the Daily News staff photographer showed up at my door to take my picture to accompany the story. Duh!

My second clue should have been the phone call I received later that night from Mark. I had given the reporter his phone number, and Paul Butler's as well. I believe the first words out of his mouth were something akin to "What in the hell were you thinking?" Obviously, I wasn't thinking, or I'd have kept my Southern-story-teller-self in check during the entire interview.

Mark chilled a bit when I joked that they'd probably just bury the story next to the obits or stock quotes where only a few hardcore readers would see it. It never occurred to me that employees in positions of influence at the Daily News might be gay or lesbian, and might find this story a big deal (another major DUH!).

As fate would have it, the paper's night editor was openly gay, and realized the historical significance of what was to occur. When the story ran, it appeared on the front page, with the headline "Gays to recruit at festival" screaming from the page in the size of type usually reserved for declarations of war and other major national news.

I wanted to crawl under a rock. The officers from Pride Behind the Badge were livid, feeling ambushed. My co-chair no longer trusted my motives, thinking the interview was more aboutmy desire to be a media princess than anything else.

Chief Gates threw a major hissy fit. Commander Taylor told me later that people two floors below the Chief's office could hear Gates screaming at the Commander.

When questioned by reporters, Gates denied having given permission for the officers to appear, and said it wasn't going to happen, no way, no how.

I phoned Commander Taylor when I heard the Chief's response on the afternoon news and reminded him that not only was he present when we received the Chief's verbal ok, he had sent me a letter, on city letterhead, giving written consent on behalf of both Chiefs Gates and Vernon. I suggested that if the Chief persisted in calling us liars, and attempted to stop our plans in mid-stream, I would fax that permission letter to every media outlet so that they could judge for themselves who was guilty of deceit.

Taylor called again minutes later to inform me that Gates intended to shut us down, I faxed the letter to Lisa at the Daily News. She ran the letter as a sidebar in a follow-up story the next day.

At that point, LA City Councilman Joel Wachs, a Gates supporter whose own homosexuality was the worst-kept secret in LA politics, agreed to intercede. In his meeting with Chief Gates, he pointed to the letter in the newspaper as our community's version of the Rodney King video. He asked the Chief if LAPD employees could not believe written permission given on a letter which bore not only his name, but that of another chief and a commander, what were they to believe? And what was the harm in conducting recruitment efforts in the gay and lesbian community anyway, since they do it in every other minority community?

After that meeting, Gates stated that our efforts could continue as planned for 1991, but that it was a one-time deal, it wouldn't happen again.

Everyone on the task force agreed to do everything possible to ensure that a recruitment booth became a regular occurrence at our community events, but, for the time being, the present required more of our attention than the future.

It didn't take long for the story to garner national attention, or for us to realize we would need the help of someone more media-savvy in our camp than we were. Carol Anderson of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation enthusiastically accepted and professionally performed the role of our media liaison.

No amount of planning could have prepared us for what occurred on the festival's opening day. The frenetic pace of setting up the booth mercifully prevented us from considering, even momentarily, that the officers might have second thoughts and not show up. Slowly, all six officers nervously filtered in. By the time the gates opened, Paul Butler,Marc Goodman, Sue Herrold, Karen Kos, Kelly Shea and John Smith had successfully vanquished any personal demons and were ready to greet their community.

We were located on the end of the center row of booths, a short distance from the main gate. Being in the center of the three rows allowed visitors access to the officers from two sides, and for the entire weekend, people stood three and four deep, waiting patiently to congratulate the officers and commend them for their courage. There was such a crush of well-wishers, in fact, that press interviews had to be moved elsewhere on the festival grounds, because there was absolutely no room for production crews. That year, approximately half a million people attended the festival and parade, and I'd wager that each of them came to our booth at least twice.

No description of the overwhelming outpouring of emotion from the community can do it justice. Closeted cops from LAPD and numerous other southern California agencies stopped by to

lend their support and to talk shop. Drag queens came by to flirt, party, and have pictures taken with the officers. Life-long activists came to honor and celebrate with those who had brought down our culture's equivalent of the Berlin Wall. One leather daddy broke down and sobbed in an officer's arms, stating that he never thought he'd live to see the day that he'd see people like himself serving proudly in LAPD blue. Councilman Joel Wachs presented the Task Force with a proclamation that declared "Happiness is LAPD recruitment in the gay and lesbian community".

The recruitment efforts were successful as well. Approximately 100 people expressed sincere interest in a law enforcement career and signed up for entry-level testing.

Media coverage was extensive locally and nationally, and gave LAPD the only good press they'd receive all year. That first day, it seemed that you couldn't go ten minutes without someone sticking a microphone in your face asking for comment. I only realized that I'd been interviewed by CNN when I got home. An answering machine message from my mother in Atlanta said that she'd seen me on CNN, which made her proud, but then she expressed her dismay that they'd put the words "Lesbian Activist" under my name for all our relatives and neighbors to see.

The most amazing reactions came from the LAPD itself. The Police Commission decided that our efforts were so successful that they should be continued at other events of interest to gays and lesbians like the Sunset Junction Street Fair in August. Letters from rank and file officers to the editor of the police union's newspaper, The Thin Blue Line, suggested that our six officers demonstrated more class, courage and integrity than the upper management of the department ever had.

Although they were apprehensive about the reactions they'd receive from their peers when they returned to their divisions, the officers were pleasantly surprised to find them overwhelmingly supportive, once the shock wore off. Some old-timers voiced their belief that gays and lesbians serving openly in the ranks would sound the death knell for the department, but they were solidly in the minority. Everyone connected with LAPD realized, no matter how grudgingly, that "business as usual" for the LAPD had been permanently altered.

After the festival, a few of the officers expressed an interest in team-teaching the diversity training at the academy, so the Task Force conducted "Train the Trainer" sessions and worked them into the teaching rotation. Since that time, every GLBT diversity class has been taught by an openly gay or lesbian officer.

Art Mattox, the Task Force's Training Coordinator, was appointed by Mayor Richard Riordan to the Los Angeles Police Commission, the first openly gay person to serve in that capacity anywhere in the nation. When he resigned a few years later, Mayor Riordan appointed another openly gay man, Dean Hansell, to fill the vacancy. Unfortunately, the current Mayor Jim Hahn chose not to include a gay person in his appointments to the Commission.

Marc Goodman and Karen Kos are no longer with the department, Kos leaving for medical reasons and Goodman for professional ones. After leading the efforts to develop and maintain the department's award-winning website, he took a leave of absence to earn advanced degrees from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government (Master of Public Administration) and the London School of Economics & Political Science (M.Sc. in the Management of Information Systems). He is now a consultant, writer and subject matter expert on crime investigations in cyber-space, such as identity theft and systems sabotage. Sgt. Kelly Shea is nearing retirement, and John Smith is now a training officer at North Hollywood Division. He led a successful effort to allow GLBT officers to display pride symbols in the workplace. Paul Butler has enjoyed continued success as a screenwriter, as well as a Reserve Officer. He has taught the diversity training for recruits and line personnel since 1991.

Mark Haskins died from AIDS in 1994. He continues to be sorely missed and fondly remembered.

Sandra Farrington-Domingue is still a rabblerouser. I consider Sandy and her partner Stephanie the community's African-American dynamic duo. After serving a stint as an aideto openly-lesbian City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, Sandy kept a hand in LA politics, mounting two unsuccessful bids for City Council. They are active in Caring for Babies with AIDS and numerous other community organizations.

Commander Bob Taylor retired from LAPD in 1993 after 28 years of service. After several years keeping students safe as the Assistant Chief of Public Safety at the University of Southern California, he turned in his badge and gunbelt and accepted a position as the Ombudsman for Los Angeles County. He devotes much of his off-duty time to fly-fishing and other activities with his grandsons. Their father (his son-in-law), a Glendale police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1998. For me, personally, our continued friendship is one of the great side-benefits from the events of '91.

In 1994, I was appointed by the Police Commission to serve as a civilian board member on LAPD administrative trial boards, which adjudicate allegations of officer misconduct. I resigned from this position in March 2002, after participating in more than 100 trial boards. My outspoken insistence that the department do right by its employees and the public ruffled many feathers. In a mid-life career shift, I am now struggling to become a syndicated newspaper columnist (or, as my partner lovingly termed it "the Fannie Flagg of political punditry"). My op-ed pieces on law enforcement issues have been published in the LA Daily News, the FBI Law Enforcement Training Bulletin, and several small southern California newspapers.

The last I heard, Lisa Pope was working for the LA Times as their Lifestyles Editor. And the ever-talented David Smith is now a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C.

Many recruits now go through the hiring process and the academy training openly as gays and lesbians, and many more tenured officers have come out on the job. Two of them, Sgt. Lisa Phillips and Pete Casey, were awarded the Medal of Valor, the department's highest award for heroism. Dave Kalish, was recently promoted to the rank of Deputy Chief. He is, to my knowledge, the highest-ranking openly gay cop in the nation, and is underconsideration to replace Chief Bernard Parks. Uniformed LAPD officers now march in our pride parade each year, and open gays and lesbians are regularly assigned to the overall recruitment efforts.

In September of 1995, the LAPD co-sponsored the 2nd International Conference of Gay & Lesbian Criminal Justice Professionals with the Golden State Peace Officers Association (formerly Pride Behind the Badge). Over 400 police officers and firefighters attended from the United States and several foreign nations. The conference gave rise to the formation of Law Enforcement Gays and Lesbians, International (LEGAL).

First, we had one, then six. Now there are dozens, and in the near future, I am confident that there will be hundreds. In slamming closed their closet doors, those first six opened the door to a more open and inclusive organization. They became unwitting role models, perhaps, but role models nonetheless. Those officers, and their counterparts in agencies across the nation, set a true example of personal integrity, openly serving and protecting all the citizens of our nation's diverse communities, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Our society benefits greatly from their courageous, continuing efforts.

 


Donna J. Wade
Freelance Commercial Writer
Graphic Designer / Print Media Consultant

Phone: (909) 338-9778
Email: donnajwade@gmail.com

Copyright 2007 Donna J. Wade / All Rights Reserved