Calif. PD launches vigorous LGBT recruitment, outreach
The PD has created a liaison role dedicated to addressing crime and police concerns within the LGBT community
By Robert Salonga
The Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif. — With Silicon Valley Pride approaching this weekend, the San Jose Police Department is for the first time launching a campaign to recruit members of the LGBT community through a series of public initiatives and an intrepid ad campaign.
The campaign will feature identical ads showing the actual families of three officers: a heterosexual couple, a gay male couple and a lesbian couple.
Chief Eddie Garcia also announced Thursday that his department has created a liaison role dedicated to addressing crime and police concerns within the LGBT community, which has battled issues with underreporting of crime out of fear of reprisal from families and colleagues.
“The reality is the LGBT community gets overlooked often,” Garcia said. “Bias isn’t solely about race. We can’t preach social justice outside the organization if we’re not preaching it inside as well. We want to continue to mirror the community we serve.”
Garcia will lead a push this weekend during Pride festivities to drum up interest in joining the police force. And inside the department within existing ranks, an array of projects to improve officers’ cultural competence with LGBT people and issues, and ability to discern hate crimes against them, is underway. Police academy recruits are already required to visit the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center as a component of their diversity training.
SJPD at SV Pride 2017 Parade
We had a great time on Sunday at the Silicon Valley Pride parade. We loved meeting all of your families! And... a special shout out to all of the officers and their families that marched with the Chief in the parade.Posted by San Jose Police Department on Monday, August 28, 2017
Officer James Gonzales, recently the vice president of the police union, is helping spearhead the new outreach. He is one of two openly gay male officers in the department.
“These steps are significant. No matter what you say, unless officers and people are seeing other officers serving openly, how will they have the confidence to do the same?” Gonzales said. “Seeing us in real same-sex couples can provide the confidence to work here and be open about their family status.”
“We’ve been at Pride for a number of years,” he added. “But we’ve never recruited at a gay event showing a gay officer and their family.”
The new liaison role mirrors efforts in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and, naturally, the city’s pioneering neighbors to the north in San Francisco.
Alongside the Pride participation — where the chief will ride in a patrol car outfitted with rainbow SJPD decals — this weekend the department will run the series of TV and print ads touting its new “SJPD + Your Family” campaign.
The ads show officers getting ready for work and saying goodbye to their spouses, with the only differences appearing at the end when their sexual orientation is briefly revealed.
The trailing message: “Now Hiring: San Jose Police Department welcomes all families to join our police family.”
Gonzales is featured with his husband in one of the ads. Officer Saul Duran appears in one with his wife, Patricia Jaime, a former SJPD officer-turned-District Attorney investigator. Officer Margaret Sandez rounds out the campaign appearing with her wife.
The chief is quick to point out that the department is not prioritizing the LGBT community over other underrepresented groups, but rather bringing it more evenly into the fold, especially with a nascent recruiting blitz to replenish years of staffing losses.
“We’re opening up the floodgates with recruiting. The LGBT community consists of all races,” Garcia said. “The individuals who qualify to be an SJPD officer are not all white, not all Latino, not all African-American. And they’re not all straight. If they can answer a call for service and save someone’s life, that’s good enough for me.”
Mayor Sam Liccardo echoed the sentiment.
“We’re passionate about getting the best and brightest women and men to serve our community, that requires us to send a clear message,” Liccardo said. “We invite diversity.”
Garcia noted that within the department culture, there has been more familiarity with openly lesbian officers than gay male officers. Gonzales has been a bridge for many of his colleagues in that regard, thanks in part to his familiarity to them as a union officer.
“I need to make sure that if a male officer happens to be gay, and if they want to keep their life private, that’s fine,” Garcia said. “And if they want to be able to talk about their personal life, I need to make sure that person is safe.”
Much of the planned outreach will be done in consultation with an LGBT advisory board created earlier this year, composed of community leaders including county Supervisor Ken Yeager; county LGBT affairs Director Maribel Martinez; Gabrielle Antolovich, board president of the Billy DeFrank Center; San Jose mayoral LGBT liaison Khanh Russo; and Wiggsy Sivertsen, the South Bay LGBT rights pioneer who spent nearly a half century at San Jose State University and co-founded the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee.
“This signifies progress in a way we’ve never seen before,” Yeager said. “The police force aggressively recruiting gays and lesbians is something I have not seen, ever. These all send a strong message in many ways: First, feel free to apply but more, importantly, feel free to report a crime.”
Yeager was alluding to a chronic issue in the LGBT community in terms of shaky trust in law enforcement. According to county figures, just one in four LGBT domestic-violence victims report the abuse to police.
Among LGBT youth, 81 percent are verbally harassed, 44 percent of them are physically harassed, and 20 percent are physically assaulted at school, according to the county. And the fear of reporting to police, and potentially outing themselves to families or employers, helps feed the troubling statistic that 29 percent of homeless youth are LGBT.
“I remember the days when officers would harass gay people or would not take the crime against them seriously,” Yeager said, adding that the police outreach “just shows the remarkable progress that’s going to keep on accelerating. I hope this happens with other police departments, and fire departments, as well.”
©2017 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)