Justice

The Orlando Police Department's Remembrance of the Mass Shooting Victims Is Excellent

The Orlando Police Department announced an initiative for the LGBT community on an important date, the latest move by police departments around the country to show solidarity and support for the community.

Dec. 12 marked six months since the Orlando, Fla., mass shooting, when avowed religious extremist Omar Mateen killed 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse.

The OPD launched its new "Safe Place" initiative that same week.

The initiative encourages businesses to put decals in their windows that designate them as safe places for LGBT people to call police and to wait for help to arrive if they're under threat.

The OPD also unveiled a new LGBT liaison police car in July that has the names of Orlando shooting victims on it. It's driven by the OPD's lead liaison to the gay community, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Police departments across the country now have similar LGBT liaisons and community programs.

Police handcuffs.

Orlando's Safe Place initiative is modeled after a similar program that Seattle implemented in November last year.

Other cities — including Washington, Los Angeles, and Boise, Idaho — have designated liaisons for the LGBT community.

gay-bar

Diane Goldstein, a retired 20-year-veteran of the Redondo Beach Police Department, told ATTN: that the national move toward LGBT liaisons and community programs resulted from an increase in hate crimes against the gay and transgender community and a realization that police departments needed better strategies to deal with them.

"I think it's a very complex subject, because what I think is that part of this is the explosion of hate crimes that we're seeing and the results of how we've traditionally handled them," said Goldstein, who's also an executive board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "But, also, no different than other communities that have been marginalized in the past, law enforcement has recognized that the LGBT community has needs that law enforcement has neglected."

But LGBT discrimination can come from police officers as well.

police car

"Some of the difficulties happen if you create liaisons, and you think it's going to solve all of the problems, which for LGBT communities already includes targeting and over-policing," Richard Saenz, a Lambda Legal staff attorney and criminal justice and police misconduct program strategist, told ATTN:.

A policewoman.

About 73 percent of respondents to a 2012 Lambda Legal survey reported an interaction with police in the past five years, and many of those interactions were negative, according to the organization that advocates for LGBT civil rights.

About 25 percent of respondents who had police contact reported "at least one type of misconduct or harassment, such as verbal assault, being accused of an offense they did not commit, sexual harassment, or physical assault."

police pull over

Saenz stressed that increased patrols of inadequately trained officers would not necessarily make the communities safer for LGBT people. He added that liaison positions and safe place initiatives are only effective if they're partnered with increased training across departments.

Saenz said this is true for all groups who have disproportionate interactions with the police, including minorities. "The broader issue is for police departments to be reflective of the communities and accountable to the communities," he said.

Black police officer

Building relationships with marginalized groups is important for police officers to fairly apply the law, Goldstein said. "We should be enforcing the law equitably across all communities, and I think we need to understand the communities so that we can enforce the law in an equitable way."

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