These cops are the first in NJ to wear Pride patches. Meet the detective who started it.
Proceeds for the rainbow patches go to a group home that supports LGBTQ+ teens and youth
By Kevin Shea
HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Alexis Mirra has been learning how to sew the past few weeks, and even bought a thimble. It’s not a hobby, it’s a necessity to affix new patches on the uniforms of fellow police officers in Hopewell Township.
The patches feature the colors from the Pride flag, the symbol of the LGBTQ community, and officers are voluntarily wearing them for the remainder of June, for Pride Month.
The patches were Mirra’s idea and now project, and the detective believes a first in the Garden State. “I am fairly certain we are the first to wear a Pride flag on our uniform,” the detective said. ( Ridgewood police rolled out a Pride vehicle this year, and San Francisco police were the first to wear a Pride Month patch in 2019.)
The 11-year veteran discussed the patches this week at police headquarters, which she said has been “overwhelming” in a good way.
First, Mirra is a member of the LGBTQ community. She was married to Julia Caseres, a Piscataway police officer who died of cancer in 2019. They met during a trip to Spain to watch soccer – Caseres was a star player and remains New Jersey’s top collegiate goal scorer - and they were a couple for six years and married for one before Cesares passed away at the age of 28.
“This is something very near and dear to me,” she said.
Second, Hopewell police have undergone a lot of change in the past year, notably moving from a police chief to civilian director. When he arrived last fall, Director Bob Karmazin and officer-in-charge Lt. William Springer said they were open to any new ideas.
Thirdly, Mirra said she had made contact with the Triad House through work, a residential group home for teens and young adults in Ewing run by Life Ties, and is the first LGBTQ-friendly home in New Jersey. She believes in their mission and work, and was looking for a way to support them.
Then it came to her: police patches.
“Patches are a thing in policing,” Mirra said. Officers and departments collect and trade them, often mounting them on giant walls in police departments. Some police departments sell them to the public.
Why not a special Pride police patch? That can benefit a local group?
Karmazin gave it the green light in January.
Mirra helped design it, modeling it after the Philadelphia Pride flag, which adds the colors black and brown for people of color. She had 300 of them made and is selling them for $10.
Anyone else can buy one if they like and all proceeds go to the Triad House. Hopewell police Pride patches and stickers are also sale at Dandelion Wishes in Hopewell Borough and Tipple and Rose in Pennington.
She also made companion stickers for $5, and each comes with a card that has information and telephone numbers about LGBTQ organizations that helped her, like Hope Rises Up, Prism – Bending the Light, and national groups like the Trevor Project Lifeline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“So this is fairly layered and it’s been absolutely wonderful,” Mirra said.
Hopewell police officers, if they chose, can wear them on their right shoulder, which Mirra has been helping sew onto their uniforms. (Their regular patch is on the left.) Mirra said the department has been supportive of the LGBTQ community, and her. Many colleagues were at her wedding – some sporting rainbow ties.
About half the department is wearing the patches, which goes beyond their personal choice. “It shows support for the LGBTQ community to see an officer wearing one in public, and they’re helping these kids, at the Triad House,” she said.
Plus, the department can explore other speciality patches for occasions, she said.
The Hopewell Pride patch has already piqued interest outside of New Jersey too. Mirra was touched that the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, one of the largest gay collections in the country, wants a patch for their collection.
Thinking of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969, which many credit as the birth of the Pride and gay rights movement, Mirra said: “We’ve come a long way.”
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