Gays and Lesbians in the Police Force
From historical perspective, early activism focused more on trying to wrench some tolerance from the mainstream than on dreaming of achieving legitimacy for forbidden relationships. The early movement that preceded the advent of gay and lesbian rights organizing hoped to defuse hatred of homosexuality. Recent years, there is an increasing number of gay and lesbian minorities work in police force. In general, they always work in this police force but hided their sexual preferences and orientation.
Equal rights movement and equal employment opportunities restrict harassment and violation of rights of sexual minorities. In this way, the law produces and imposes another stereotyped identity: the identity of the isolated and outcast “homosexual,” whose deviant sexuality is incompatible with committed familial relationships. Sklansky (2006) explains that:
“The presence of openly gay and lesbian officers, and even some openly gay and lesbian command staff, in American police departments is a sea change from the situation thirty years ago. Even today, gay and lesbian officers can feel strong pressures to keep their sexual orientation hidden, or at least unadvertised” (1209).
In the pats, there were not openly sexual minorities in the police force. This procedure was reflected in decisions by medical and psychological associations to cease regarding homosexuality as a mental illness and, in some jurisdictions, in decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults, and in making homosexuals legally eligible for “partnership” benefits that previously were restricted. Policies regarding homosexuals in the police seem to reflect but lag behind the policies in their host societies (Cashmore, 2002). However, the social sciences have neither a long research tradition nor a rich database on the policies and practices that exist cross-nationally that might be used to inform the policy debate. Social scientists in the international community have begun to turn their attention to this issue, largely in response to American concerns. In spite of these policies, critics and law makers accept that:
“By competency effects, distinctive sets of skills and abilities that minority officers, and gay and lesbian officers may bring to their work. Community effects are consequences that integrating a police department may have for the relationship between the department and the community it serves” (Sklansky 2006, p. 1209).
Thus, some critics (Cashmore, 2002) admit that a policy also would leave acknowledged homosexuals open to blackmail since it is, to some extent, the reactions of others that determine whether or not they will be subject to discharge. Indeed, homosexuals would still be forced into the closet under fear that any activities could be viewed as flaunting or shouting. The limits of such a policy would likely be tested daily, with commanders varying in their decisions as to what is and is not allowed. Proposing new legislation and employment procedure, the police demand that “officers are also bound to monitor their own professional and personal development, which is formally reviewed every year” (Cashmore 2002, p. 327). Issues surrounding the extension of rights and equal opportunity to homosexuals are complex and divisive. Homosexuality, as an orientation with behavioral implications, challenges society’s fundamental values and traditional assumptions about morality, religion, and gender roles, especially masculinity.
The scope of personal privacy remains, as it has long been, a major concern for those entering the public workforce. Some issues are perennial — questions people would rather not answer about their finances, policies that inhibit associations and sexual activities off the job, adverse treatment of gay and lesbian employees. But the striking feature of public employee privacy is the emergence in the last decade of a whole new set of issues, drug testing of applicants and employees, checking public workers’ cholesterol levels (Woog. 1999). The courts have, despite intense and persistent constitutional challenge, upheld that policy (save in unusual cases where, for example, one of the services has repeatedly reenlisted a person known by it to be homosexual.
The last year, an important step was made by The Washington Metropolitan Police Department which organized a Gay and Lesbian Liaison (GLLU). “Cooperation and teamwork across departmental, jurisdictional, and geographic boundaries are the hallmarks of the GLLU and the reason for its success. Unlike most police community liaison units, this one actually performs a law enforcement function” (Fillichio, 2006, p. 56). It is important to note that the police and social environments are not as congenial for homosexuals. The timing for homosexual integration could not be worse: The reduced manpower needs of a downsizing police do not ease the inclusion of homosexuals. (The reduction in manpower needs may also slow the gains made by minorities and women). Further, police personnel are more resistant to gay integration than they are to the presence of racial minorities and women. Cultural ambivalence and the lack of a supportive legal environment will likely impede the improvement of the position of gays and lesbians in the larger society (Woog. 1999; Henneman, 2006).
Critics (Sklansky, 2006; Henneman, 2006) suggest that homosexuality proffers challenges to the police, not as the initiating or causal agent, but as one of a series of changes wrought by modernization. For example, it has been argued that functions of the family as an institution had to be redefined before homosexuality could find some degree of tolerance. Relative to the latter, there is greater emphasis on individuality, personal freedom, and satisfaction than on group interests. Thus, Henneman (2006) explains that: “for many gay officers in departments nationwide, being openly gay has become much less of a struggle” (p. 38).
One of the possible alternatives to this problem is the “don’t tell, not on duty” proposal. Under this compromise, service members would be expected to maintain police professionalism and decorum while in uniform or on base, but would be free to exercise individual “lifestyles” off base or off duty. Police personnel would not state their homosexuality on base but use local civilian facilities to gather and solicit sex. The recent events in Canada show that the society is not ready to accept gay and lesbian police officers “Most residents of the province are staunchly opposed to the Canadian federal government’s move toward equality for gays and lesbians” (Haysp 2004, p. 22). Since so much has been written in support of legalizing gay employment in the police, the absence of substantial credible evidence of social benefit stands out in stark contrast to the abundance of passion and intensity offered. Because advocates should carry the burden of proof to justify the proposed legal reform, the paucity of evidence is a serious failing in their campaign to persuade men and women of reason. Thus, “Because the GLLU is a model for government’s capacity to do good, and do it well, the $100,000 prize specifically supports dissemination to other jurisdictions” (Fillichio 2006, p. 56).
In sum, the police force introduces new policies and laws which support gay and lesbian employees but the majority of society does not accept these classes at workplace. Beyond the point of accession, policies and practices regarding conditions of service also frequently differ from each other and from policies and practices regarding accession as well. In the USA, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands in particular, sexual orientation integration has been seen explicitly as a civil rights or human rights issue, but gay and lesbian employees are still experience problems speaking openly about their sexual orientation.
Cashmore, E. (2002). Behind the Window Dressing: Ethnic Minority Police Perspectives on Cultural Diversity. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 28, p. 327.
Hays, M. (March 16 2004) Straight Cops’ Gay 101: A Canadian Police Force Asks Heterosexual Recruits to Take a Crash Course in Being out and Proud. The Advocate, p. 22.
Henneman, T. (May 9 2006). A Gun and Badge for Gays: Becoming an Openly Gay Police Officer Used to Mean Facing Harassment and Rejection. Now Departments across the Country Are Actively Seeking Gay Recruits. The Advocate, p. 38.
Fillichio, C.A. (2006). The New Beat: The Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit Is Transforming Law Enforcement and Redefining the Concept of “Community” Policing. The Public Manager, 35 (3), 56.
Sklansky, D.A. (2006). Not Your Father’s Police Department: Making Sense of the New Demographics of Law Enforcement. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 96 (4), p. 1209.
Woog. D. (1999). Friends & Family: True Stories of Gay America’s Straight Allies. Alyson Publications.