Press Release: Breckenridge Police Lead The Way

Santa Rosa, CA. March 8, 2017.  The Board of Directors of Out To Protect congratulate Chief Dennis McLaughlin and the members of the Breckenridge, Colorado Police Department for leading the nation and being the first police department to complete the new LGBT Awareness For Law Enforcement course launched just this month by Out To Protect.

Breckenridge Police

Breckenridge Police Sergeant Bryan Ridge said that all 26 members of the department, including the chief, assistant chief, patrol officers, and community service officers are participating in the LGBT Awareness For Law Enforcement course. Everyone who successfully completes the course is receiving a  training certificate from Out To Protect.

Sergeant Ridge said,

“The training has been really beneficial for our officers. We have included it into our anti-bias training program.”

Out to Protect founder and CEO, Greg Miraglia, who created the course, said, “I commend the members of the Breckenridge Police Department for participating in this training program.  It’s great to see a department so committed to community policing and increasing the cultural competence of its personnel.”

The LGBT Awareness For Law Enforcement course was created to provide law enforcement professionals at every level of government with the basic knowledge and understanding necessary to more effectively serve members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community as well as to support LGBT law enforcement professionals.  The course is available to all law enforcement professionals and students free of charge.

Click Here To Learn More.

Out To Protect is a national non-profit organization with the a mission of creating a greater awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender professionals working in law enforcement and to support those pursuing a law enforcement career.  We provide scholarships, training grants, and educational programs.

For information about this release:
Greg Miraglia, 707-728-5428


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Training For Law Enforcement

Now more than ever, law enforcement professionals at every level need to understand sexual orientation and gender identity – more specifically, they need to understand non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming minorities – the LGBTQ+ community.

Most states do not require any discussion about these issues in basic or advanced training programs.  The reality is that sexual orientation and gender non-conforming minorities exist in every jurisdiction served by every law enforcement agency in the world.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people exist in every race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion.  So no matter what the visible demographic of a jurisdiction may be, LGBTQ+ people are there.  We also know that LGBT people are targets for hate crimes second only to those targeted because of their race. Domestic violence is also an issue in same-sex relationships as it is in straight relationships. While LGBT awareness training may not have been readily available to law enforcement in the past, we are happy to offer a source today.

We now provide LGBT awareness training for law enforcement on a variety of levels.  We offer everything from course materials to actual training, online and in person.

Our newest book, “Coming Out From Behind The Badge – 2nd Edition” is an ideal foundational text and provides an excellent source of awareness training all on its own.  It includes chapters on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT history related to law enforcement, and guidelines for how to create an inclusive workplace.  Our course outlines and lesson plans integrate the book content into a “total training package” making it easy for an instructor to incorporate meaningful content into an existing course.

Our newest addition to the training we provide is our online LGBT Awareness For Law Enforcement course.  Now law enforcement professionals and students can complete a course of training on their own from anywhere with Internet access.  The course can be accessed in a patrol car or on a mobile device.  It too integrates our book and provides activities and videos to compliment the content.

We offer several in-person training programs that work well in a conference setting as well as within basic and advanced training programs.  We can provide everything from a speaker, to a panel discussion, to a complete community immersion experience.

We believe strongly in community policing and know that trust is central to every successful relationship between police and the people it they serve.  We also believe that an inclusive and safe workplace for LGBT law enforcement employees is central to the success of every law enforcement agency.  Our goal with all of this content and programming is to provide law enforcement with the knowledge and skills necessary to support its own LGBT members as well as the greater LGBT community law enforcement serves.

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Meet Commander David Myers

In 1993, I was 32 years old, married with 2 young children, and working as a patrol Deputy in the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. My mom called me one afternoon and told me that my dad had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and that he had, at most, a couple of weeks to live. Tragically, the cancer had advanced so far that by the time he was diagnosed, there was nothing the doctors could do. He died 10 days after the diagnosis. My dad was the most kind-hearted, strong, and hardworking man I have ever known. He worked for more than 30 years as a plumber-pipe fitter to support our family of 7 and even though we often had to be very thrifty, he made sure that we were provided for. Most of all, he and my mother gave us so much of their love and attention that we never felt deprived. If anything, it was the opposite because both he and my mother doted on all of us. His death opened up a part of me that I had compartmentalized a long time ago, which is that I had known from a very young age that I was “different” and that my sexual orientation did not match those of my friends and family members. However, because of the fear of being ostracized by school mates and others outside of my family, I repressed it. I know that my family would have been fine with my being gay and would have accepted and loved me just the same, but the times were such that being openly gay and pursuing a career in law enforcement was not an option. One has to understand that this was in the 1960s and 1970s, when being gay or lesbian was generally considered to be deviant and and shameful. As far back as I could remember, I wanted to be a police officer or in law enforcement, and I knew that I had to live a heterosexually-oriented life if I were to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a police officer. So I entered the police academy after graduating from high school, started working at a patrol officer for Carlsbad PD, got married, and started a family. After a couple of years, I transferred over to the Sheriff’s Department. When my father died, an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness washed over me because he was gone, but also because I had never shown my father the full measure of who I am. That left me with a huge sense of regret because I felt that he deserved to know everything about me, but it was too late. I wanted to be honest about myself and with the people who matter so much to me.  Soon after my death, I made the momentous decision to come out to my wife and 2 kids (who were then 10 and 12), my mom, brothers and sister, as well as my in-laws and their immediate family members. My wife and I worked out an arrangement with the kids that served us and them well over the years until they graduated from high school.

I did not come out at work at that time, however, since the culture at the Sheriff Department – and no doubt at any law enforcement agency – was still very homophobic. Over the course of the next few years, I tried to keep a very strict separation between my personal life and work. At work, I was perceived by others as heterosexual. I was very well liked, quickly achieving several awards, and looked upon as a leader. I was also very social on and off duty with work friends, and very active in the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. However, little by little, word got around the department that I was gay. That’s when I started to notice a definite change in the attitude and actions of my colleagues and supervisors in the department. I began to experience situations where I had partners who wouldn’t assist me on radio calls. Deputies who I thought were my friends distanced themselves from me, and in several cases, stopped socializing with me altogether and kept it strictly “professional”.  I would often find myself at priority calls with no cover deputy or cover deputies who took a time to arrive. I stopped having cover Deputies show up to assist on traffic stops. So, I just did my job and did it alone most of the time. However, there were also Deputies and supervisors who made it clear that my being gay did not matter one iota in their perception of me, and it was the support of these individuals that kept me focused my job. I did not want anybody in the department to make my sexual orientation an issue, and I was determined to prove to everybody that not only could I do my job well but I could do it better than they could. I’d like to think that my being gay made it easier for me to empathize with members of our community that have historically felt marginalized or alienated from law enforcement, which made me work harder to go the extra mile to see what more I could do to better serve and protect them, especially the youth in these disadvantaged communities. It helped a lot that the Sheriff at the time was something of an outsider himself, having come from another law enforcement agency and was of Jewish background. He understood social stigmatism and being different from the prevailing majority. One day, Sheriff Bill Kolender called me into his office and he told me that he had heard that I was semi-out at the Department.  He was very supportive, promised to watch over me and made me promise to tell him if anyone was harassing me. I thanked him and asked him to let me do it my way. I said that would be able to take care of myself. Until the day that he had to resign from the department because of failing health, I know he continued to watch over me though.

When I “officially” came out, so to speak, I did it in a very public way. I was (and still am) on the County of San Diego’s pension board (SDCERA) when the State of California was wrestling with Proposition 8, which was a referendum that had passed in 2008 that eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry. SDCERA staff had arranged for the annual Board retreat at a hotel that was developed and owned by one of the largest backers of the referendum. I registered my total objection to the use of this hotel, arguing that SDCERA should not in any way support a business that sought to deprive some SDCERA members of what I thought was a fundamental right. I was outvoted. A reporter from the San Diego Union Tribunes asked me after the board meeting if I was gay, and I told him “Yes”. I followed up on that unexpected question with an explanation that my sexual orientation was not the issue and that the real issue was about making a statement in favor of achieving equality for all Californians and against prejudice and discrimination. My statements – all of them – appeared in the paper the following day. I had never intended to talk about my sexual orientation in this way, but in retrospect, I am glad that it happened. Based on the comments that I got from the Deputies – many of whom were gay but were still closeted – I think this made them feel less isolated and gave them a sense of validation.

I am now a Commander with the Sheriff’s Department, which is pretty high up in the hierarchy. However, I believe that there is still latent homophobia in the Department, and it flows from the upper leadership down to the ranks. It is subtle, but it is still there in terms of performance evaluations, career advancement, job assignments, and out-of-office socializing. The days of out-and-out bigotry against lesbians and gay in law enforcement are pretty much over, but there is still a lingering perception among closeted deputies who believe that coming out is risky because the culture within the department is still very much a straight white male dominated one. Anyone who does not fit in this mold are relegated to a second class tier. Because of this, I am one of a handful of openly gay deputies in a Department of more than 4,000 officers and non-sworn personnel. But then, my Department’s record on diversity and inclusion in general has been abysmal. There are no women Commanders or above, and only 1 minority officer (an African American male) in the upper command staff of the Department.

I recently decided that I would run for Sheriff against an incumbent who has been in office for 10 years. If elected, I would be the first openly gay male Sheriff in US history. But this is not the reason why I am running. I am running because I believe, among other things, that our department needs to embrace a change toward greater diversity and inclusiveness, that there is a tremendous amount of value in having a police force that looks like and understands the diverse needs of the community it serves. I am running because I believe that we have to focus on the youth – including LGBT youth – in our community. This means outreach to them while in school, educational programs in law enforcement, and integrating their opinions and concerns into the law enforcement strategies of our organizations. We in law enforcement need to do something today to break the cycle of fear and alienation in some parts of our communities, especially in communities of color and the black community. Our leaders in law enforcement need to own up the fact that some police officers and policies are flawed – such as implicit bias against LGBT, women, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities. Just as important, we need law enforcement leaders who embody a commitment to using the tools of law enforcement to work for social equity and justice.

If there is any advice that I would give to those pursuing a career in law enforcement, especially somebody who is LGBT, I would tell them to go for it. Today, our country is in the midst of an unprecedented national conversation on community-police relations. Now more than ever, our communities need police officers from all walks of life – LGBT, people of color, women, Muslims, and all other segments of our population. I know that diversity alone will not solve the challenges that confront community policing today, but it is key to closing the gap between the officers and the people they are sworn to protect. Such diversity can help to build trust and confidence in the police: the more a police department reflects the composition of the local population, the higher the department’s reputation among residents, which can provide a foundation to build further trust, coupled with other needed reforms.

Policing is a noble and great calling. In my 32 years of working in law enforcement, I’ve gotten to know many great individuals who have committed themselves to a life of service over self, an existence of putting their lives on the line in order to make their communities a better place, because that’s who they are. They want to get rid of gangs from terrorized neighborhoods; they want to help shut ins who’ve been all but forgotten by society; they want to keep a young transgender kid from being mercilessly bullied.

I would remiss, however, if I did not advise young LGBT, minority, and female individuals considering a career in policing to be aware of the subtle, but present, racism, homophobia and misogyny that is still embedded in the culture of many policing departments and agencies. By doing their jobs well, if not better than their colleagues, they will prove to everybody in their departments that one’s gender, sexual orientation, race or creed does not define one’s abilities and performance. Having to go the extra mile to prove something to one’s colleague is a burden unto itself that straight white males never have to do (I call it straight white male privilege) but will be a part of the experience. And when you do excel at your work, that itself may engender hostility from your colleagues and superiors who think that the gay or lesbian officer is getting too “uppity” or that they are getting shown up by the African-American officer. This is changing for the better somewhat, especially as more and more LGBT, people of color and women move up the ranks of the policing organization, but it is still not where it needs to be – which is true inclusion and total respect for a fellow officer, regardless of how different they may be from you. Think long and hard about whether you are willing to commit to taking on this extra burden. This will take heart, it will take fortitude, and it will take courage.

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Pride Toronto Excludes Police

Today we learned that Pride Toronto, the organization behind Toronto’s annual pride celebration, voted to exclude participation from law enforcement in the parade and pride celebrations.  They actually took conscious action to exclude law enforcement including officers who happen to be members of the LGBT community.

When Toronto hosted the World Pride celebration in 2014, I traveled to Toronto and was hosted by the police department as part of an international LGBT law enforcement conference they produced in conjunction with the pride celebration.  The Chief of Police hosted an event for LGBT community leaders in the police department in support of the pride celebration and the community (something he has done for years).  I found the police department’s engagement to be remarkable and an excellent example of what should be in every city.  The police department had a float in the parade and participated fully in a wide range of pride events, all the while providing protection for everyone who attended that weekend.  It was community policing at its finest.

When organizations like Pride Toronto take actions like they did today, they compromise what I believe citizens are craving – a trusting relationship with police.  I suspect those who voted today would be the first to criticize police for not being involved or connected enough to the community, yet they took action to exclude the same officers who are working hard to be engaged.

Last year a similar action was taken by the LGBT community center in San Diego on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  They told a transgender officer from the San Diego Police Department that she couldn’t participate in uniform.  I say, you can’t have it both ways.   You can’t complain about a lack of engagement and trust and then do what Pride Toronto just did.

Let’s remember how pride celebrations we plan and enjoy today came about.  They started in New York with a riot between police and LGBT people.  The relationship with police couldn’t have been worse and more violent.  But over the years, law enforcement and members of the LGBT community worked hard to build relationships, to create trust, and foster inclusion.  Police department leaders, LGBT members, and straight allies have been marching in pride parades for many years now.  We’ve come too far to allow this kind of action by an organizing board to be tolerated.

I ask that you join me in calling upon Pride Toronto to reconsider the error of their ways and to welcome law enforcement back to the celebration.  I was considering visiting Toronto this summer for pride, but you can count me out until things change.

Click Here To Join The Petition For Change

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Planning A Conference This Year And Looking For Something New?

If you are planning a conference or training this year, we offer a variety of programs designed to provide a greater understanding of the LGBTQ+ community for law enforcement.  Now more than ever, law enforcement officers need a working understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity differences.   Whether it’s gaining a better understanding of co-workers or knowing how to better serve members of the community, we can provide the training you need.  Here are descriptions of some of the programs we offer.

LGBT Awareness For Law Enforcement

Homophobia is fueled largely by fear and a general lack of knowledge about sexual orientation and gender identity.  Non-heterosexuality can pose challenges for conservative belief systems and result in hostile work environments, civil litigation, and less than satisfactory service to the community. Two studies published 2013 and 2015 by UCLA’s Williams Institute showed that homophobia is pervasive throughout law enforcement in the United States.  These studies looked at internal and external events with law enforcement and LGBT people.

LGBT AwarenessThis program includes an interactive discussion of stereotypes and an explanation of the sexual orientation and gender identity spectrum.  It can also include strategies for handling LGBT related domestic violence calls for service and hate crimes investigations involving LGBT victims.

We begin this program with a strong statement of intent:  “We are not here to tell you that your religious beliefs, personal values systems or morals are wrong.  We are here to share information and to help you be a more supportive colleague and more effective in serving the LGBT people in your community.  To understand and accept someone else does not require your agreement.  As a law enforcement officer, you obligation is to treat everyone fairly and equally, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and regardless of your own personal beliefs.”

It’s not a matter of if or when an LGBT employee will be hired – they are already working in law enforcement organizations throughout the country.  The issue is whether or not these colleagues of ours feel confident and comfortable coming out and being out at work.  When law enforcement officers understand LGBT colleagues, they are likely to be more comfortable in the field when serving LGBT members of the community.

Our Journey – Celebrating Pride Every Day

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 5.10.53 PMEveryone has a journey that has been shaped largely by the people we meet and by the events that have touched us along the way.  Greg Miraglia begins by discussing his own journey that started in 1976 just about the time when Proposition 6, a California voter initiative that would have ban all LGBT people from employment in public schools, was being considered in the State.  Mr. Miraglia talks about how events like the murder of Harvey Milk, the AIDS crisis, and the murder of Matthew Shepard impacted his perception of what it meant to be gay.  He explains the homophobia he experienced first-hand when entering law enforcement and how he managed a very successful career before finally coming out in 2004.

This program includes a number of videos offering an emotional experience as the history of the LGBT civil rights movement is explored from the 1960’s through today.  Mr. Miraglia discusses the huge gains in civil rights realized here in the United States while pointing out that a movement in the opposite direction is happening in other parts of the world.  In this program. Mr. Miraglia shows the audience that it’s not laws and policies that are going to make things better for law enforcement or the rest of the world.  It is only by coming out and sharing our stories that we can change minds and hearts.  Becoming proud of who you are takes courage and internal strength, but celebrating pride shouldn’t be a once-a-year event.  The challenge for us all is to celebrate our pride every day.   This is how we can change the world and help other understand LGBT people better.

Panel Discussion With LGBT Law Enforcement Professionals

IMG_1513One of the most effective ways of learning about the LGBT community is to hear the stories of LGBT people who are working in law enforcement.  We have an amazing team of professionals with a wide range of age, rank, and experience.  We can bring a panel to your organization or, better yet, bring your organization to the LGBT community.  We can immerse you in the LGBT community by providing a walking tour of the historic Castro District in San Francisco and include a round-table style panel discussion with LGBT law enforcement professionals.  This experience has received high praise from new recruits to seasoned veterans.   Like the programs above, our goals is to increase awareness through education and experience.  Our intent is to create a non-threatening open environment where participants can ask questions and engage in discussion with our experts.

We can also provide:

  • Work Place Harassment And Discrimination Prevention Training
  • Customized Training That Creates A Supportive Environment For LGBT Personnel
  • Policy And Procedure Development And Review
  • Keynote And Special Event Presentations
  • Litigation And Expert Witness Consultation

New Online Training Coming In 2017

This year we will be launching a brand new online version of our LGBT Awareness training for law enforcement.  This training will provide the basic knowledge that law enforcement officers need to better understand and service members of the LGBTQ+ community.

If you are interested in learning more or getting a quote for one of the programs above, send us a note:  CLICK HERE For Our Contact Form.

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