June 28, 1969 — Richard Nixon was just a few months into his first term as president, America began its withdrawal from the Vietnam War, a gallon of gasoline cost 32¢, and in just a few short weeks, America would put men on the moon. However, this date is monumental in its own right. It marked the beginning of the Stonewall uprising and the burgeoning of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States.
A little history: the Stonewall Inn was a bar located in Manhattan which served primarily LGBTQ+ identifying clientele. Indeed it was one of only a handful of “gay-friendly” establishments in New York City and the entire nation. As such, the bar was a common target for police raids and undercover operations due to the powerful anti-gay legal system of the time. NYPD officers would go undercover to “bust” members of the community and arrest them for any number of offenses, such as prostitution or solicitation. Eventually, bar patrons and community members had enough and fought back against police harassment — this marked the beginning of the movement.
This is just one example of a long history of (highly validated) distrust and conflict between police and LGBTQ+ community members.
So why am I writing about this? Because I am not satisfied with the status quo. A recent campus climate survey revealed LGB and gender non-conforming students have some of the lowest levels of confidence, trust, and comfort in reaching out to UWPD for help. From a policing standpoint, LGBTQ+ people experience mental health issues, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, homelessness, and sexual assault (amongst other things) at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. Police officers need to be aware of these issues so we can competently help people in crisis, and provide services for victims of crime.
This is why we need to do better. Our police department has always been a leader in progressive policing and community engagement, and we’ve had LGBTQ+ liaison officers for a long time. Now, we’ve started a “Pride Team” to further this mission on a larger scale to our expansive campus and surrounding community. The Pride team is made up of UWPD officers and employees who are members or allies of the LGBTQ+ community. The team tackles everything from internal training and support for employees to analyzing UWPD policies through an LGBTQ+ lens, and attending community meetings. It’s our hope that this team will be at the forefront of building trust and mending relationships with our community members so we may provide for a safer, happier, and more cohesive place to live, work, and play.
But it doesn’t stop there.
We want your feedback, input, and guidance on how we can do better. In the future, we’d like to hold community forums, attend events, and actively work with our community to continue this work in the right direction. If you’re interested in learning more about our efforts, have questions, or want to provide feedback, please contact Officer Jake Lepper or Officer Tricia Meinholz via email. We’re here to listen, engage, and be a part of our community!
To conclude with one of my favorite quotes:
“This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another.”
– Ellen Page