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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
New York has always been one of the epicenters of the LGBTQ community in America. The community battled for visibility and safety well before the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and has only grown in size and strength. With more than 50,000 employees (sworn and unsworn), the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has not only made efforts to engage the LGBTQ community in all five boroughs but also set up internal efforts to update language, remove barriers, and improve opportunities for employees who identify as LGBTQ. Tanya Meisenholder, the Deputy Commissioner for Equity and Inclusion at NYPD, graciously shared her experiences of promoting equity and inclusion not only in the community but in the workplace as well.
“Externally,” she says, “the NYPD has an LGBTQ Outreach Unit, an LGBTQ liaison assigned to the Chief of Department’s Office, and an LGBTQ Advisory Panel, all of which work directly with members of the community. Internally, there is open communication with the aforementioned units, as well as the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, and other employees facilitated by the Office of Equity and Inclusion. How we treat our employees is important because we know that how we treat our employees has an impact on how they treat the communities they serve.”
The LGBTQ Outreach Unit participates in outreach efforts in all five boroughs. They participate in youth outreach with local partners as well as efforts to engage elderly members of the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ youth are more likely to be homeless, more likely to be trafficked, and more likely to have had police contact than their straight cisgender peers and are a special focus of departments nationwide because of the heightened risks they face. “The Outreach Unit also helps get LGBTQIA+ youth involved in more general youth programs, such as Law Enforcement Explorers, the Police Cadet Corps, and the Summer Youth Police Academy and Employment programs,” says Deputy Commissioner Meisenholder.
The internal efforts to promote LGBTQ inclusion and integration may be less visible to the public than the more outward reaching efforts. Work is overseen by Deputy Commissioner Meisenholder at the Office for Equity and Inclusion (OEI), which was founded in 2018 to improve the experience of all employees, including those who identify as LGBTQ whether they are out or not. Meisenholder shared the following effort: “In 2019, we distributed a confidential and voluntary employee survey to explore LGBTQIA+ within the NYPD. This internal outreach led to some real results: an inclusive language guide to illustrate the importance of communicating with coworkers and the public respectfully, extensive training about the LGBTQIA+ community for all of our employees, and improvement in policies and voluntary data collection related to gender identity.” The office has also worked with other components of city governments on trainings and gender-inclusive facilities such as restrooms, locker rooms, and employee lounges. An LGBTQ Liaison serves in the Chief of Department’s Office to ensure that LGBTQ-inclusive policies are implemented department-wide. According to Meisenholder, the liaison was instrumental in “the creation of a Gender Identity and Expression booklet and a bias-free language guide. We also developed policies to support transgender and nonconforming employees. All this work, through multiple avenues, has created a lot of positive relationships over the years. This helps bridge the gap between the police department, the LGBTQIA+ community, and LGBTQIA+ employees.”
In addition to internal efforts, the department works with partners at GOAL (a registered 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1982) on trainings as early as the police academy. Deputy Commissioner Meisenholder explains that “GOAL, in partnership with the Training Bureau, provides a LGBTQIA+ workshop for new recruits, promotional classes, School Safety, Traffic Enforcement, and other employees. This training has been provided for over 20 years and the workshop is CALEA [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] accredited.” GOAL provides a space outside the workplace but inside the law enforcement community for officers to process their experiences and translate them into action items to create a bridge between law enforcement generally and the LGBTQ community.
All these efforts are aimed at creating a department that promotes the same treatment internally that it seeks to provide externally. A necessary component of this is upholding the LGBTQ community while also acknowledging that the members of that community have many identities, including that of New Yorkers. “Embracing this intersectionality,” reflects Deputy Commissioner Meisenholder, “really gives the NYPD strength and helps us be a more inclusive department. While this has helped build positive relationships and we are grateful for the work that we have done, we know there is still more work to do and look forward to building and improving relationships.”
Sarah K. Estill
Sr. Program Analyst
All photos courtesy of the NYPD.
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