The Atlanta Police Department recently named Officer Courtney Mack as its newest liaison with the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
Mack joined Officer Eric King as one of the department’s two LGBT liaisons in late March. Some of her duties will include responding to and documenting hate crimes that may occur against people in the LGBT community.
“As a member of the gay community, I will continue to nurture and develop the strong legacy of cooperation and growth between LGBT citizens and the APD,” Mack said in a press release.
In recent decades, many urban police departments have established LGBT liaison positions to combat reports of discrimination and police misconduct against the LGBT community.
A 2014 report on a national survey of LGBT people found that 73 percent of respondents had face-to-face contact with the police in the past five years. Of those respondents,
- 21 percent reported encountering hostile attitudes from officers
- 14 percent reported verbal assault by the police
- three percent reported sexual harassment
- two percent reported physical assault at the hands of law enforcement officers
Police abuse, neglect and misconduct were consistently reported at higher frequencies by respondents of color and transgender and gender nonconforming respondents.
A 2015 Williams Institute study found that establishing a culture of acceptance in the police force and the surrounding community is likely to improve policing and increase overall safety.
For example, Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department created a Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit in response to several incidents of police harassment against LGBT people in the late 90s, and a growing concern that hate crimes against LGBT people were underreported in the city.
In the year following the appointment of LGBT liaison officers, the reporting of hate crimes against LGBT people in Washington, D.C. doubled. Additionally, the GLLU has been credited with raising awareness of same-sex intimate partner violence in the city. In 2000, no cases of same-sex intimate partner violence had been reported. As of 2012, the department had investigated 460 cases.
The establishment of LGBT-centric outreach departments within police programs began after the riots and raids of gay bars in the 1960s. Elliot Blackstone was the first LGBT liaison in the United States, appointed to the San Francisco Police Department in 1962.
This post was written by Casie Wilson. Follow her on Twitter @casiedwilson