Monday, April 26, 2010

Violence in the Village: Breaking the Silence of Gay Victims

"By some estimates, only about 10 per cent of crimes committed against homosexuals are ever reported to police. The reasons are many — fear of outing, job loss, repercussions from family, the public glare of courts, general mistrust of the police."

Breaking the silence of gay victims:
Take the badge and gun away, and cops are just people, in all colours and sizes. Like Brett Parson [pictured]. He works as a patrol sergeant and is built like a patrol car — six feet tall, 290 pounds. And he’s gay.

Sgt. Parson is well-known in Washington, D.C., as one of the first leaders, in 2001, of the department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. In many cities, like Ottawa, Canada's capitol, police reach out to the community with a liaison committee — contact points, with mixed police-civilian boards, to build ongoing relations. Washington went further. It actually created a storefront office with assigned officers to work with the gay community — not as a PR gesture, but as a crime-fighting tool. Some were gay, some not — but the sensitivity had to be there. 
“If a victim of a crime doesn’t sense some form of respect from the person investigating, they’re going to shut down on you,” said the officer. “They’ve already been victimized. They’ve already been traumatized. So they’re not going to subject themselves to it yet again, this time by someone in a uniform.” MORE

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Sgt. Brett A. Parson

For Sgt. Brett Parson the GLBT police beat always comes back to the street:
Brett Parson came out to himself during his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, when a speech by an out gay athlete set off an epiphany. "It finally hit me what I was," he says. "I knew I was different than all the other kids. Now I finally had a word for it."

Although he had always wanted to be a cop, his love of hockey for a few years took him across the country as a professional referee with the National Hockey League. His experiences there were highlighted in Dan Woog's Jocks: True Stories of America's Gay Male Athletes.

Although he left the NHL in 1992 to pursue a law enforcement career, his coming out sports story was better accepted than one might expect, with "95 percent of the people" being accepting. "I think I've had this fantasy story," he says. "I haven't had any nightmares." Parson's experience as a gay man in the police department has followed much the same course, and lends to the straightforward approach he takes in his work. READ MORE