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|New Atlanta Police LGBT liaison says he's always wanted to serve, give back to community|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|October 01, 2010 16:33|
Atlanta Police Officer Brian Sharp said growing up as a young boy in the Rome, Ga., area he always knew he wanted to be a police officer, or a pilot.
“I wanted to fly planes and be a police officer,” says the new Atlanta Police Department LGBT liaison whose first day on the job was Thursday.
“I watched ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and liked the police cars, the uniforms. And I’ve always wanted to help people,” he said. “I feel like this [being an officer] is my calling in my life and luckily I’ve ended up being able to do this.”
Sharp, 35, joined the APD in 2007 and worked as a beat officer in Zone 2, which includes northeast Atlanta. Prior to working for the police department, he worked at a youth detention facility as an administrator. His prior work experience includes retail and restaurant management.
As part of his initial duties, Sharp is coordinating openly gay officers to ride in the Atlanta Pride Parade on Oct. 10. He rode last year in the parade.
He and Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell are still working out how to sort out what duties each will be doing as LGBT liaisons, but he plans to be in the community visiting numerous events with her including many next week leading up to the 40th annual Atlanta Pride fest.
He and Powell will plan to be visible throughout Atlanta Pride, he said, visiting and talking to attendees, answering questions and basically continuing the mission they say they are there for — building bridges between the LGBT community and the APD.
“We want to build bridges [in their jobs] but also as part of the community we live in every day,” he said.
As an openly gay man and APD officer, Sharp said he was honored when Chief George Turner and Mayor Kasim Reed asked him to take on the duty of being the department’s second LGBT liaison. This is the first time in the department’s history two GLBT liaisons are serving the APD as part of a campaign promise made by Reed when he was running for office.
“One of the reasons I joined the APD is because it is a large department and is supportive of the GLBT community,” he said.
“When I came here I wondered how it would be. When I was a recruit, there was a GLBT liaison that spoke to us and I wanted to be that person for someone else. This is a perfect fit for me,” he said.
On being the first male APD gay liaison, and attending Atlanta Pride
Since the LGBT liaison program was implemented under former Chief Richard Pennington’s administration, three women have filled the position. Sharp said he is excited to be the first male in the post and think he can bring new ideas and viewpoints to the table in serving the department.
“There are a lot of openly gay males in the department and also in the community. I think I can bring something new to the table that hasn’t perhaps been brought to the table before,” he said. “We are all human beings.”
As a gay man living in Atlanta, Sharp said he has a “vested interest in both serving the APD and the community he is a part of.
“I’m very committed,” he said.
Sharp said he’s attended numerous Atlanta Pride’s in the past and is looking forward to attending this year in a new role where he can relax and represent the APD as well as his community.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “The parade — that’s my favorite part. Seeing all those thousands of people cheering for you.”
On coming out as a teen and his partner’s support
Sharp, 35, said he came out to his mom when he was 16 while living near rural Rome, Ga., in north Georgia.
“It went as well as could be expected. She went through what I called the stages of grief, but after two weeks she told me that I was the same son I was two weeks before I told her and she said, ‘I love you,’ and she’s been great ever since,” he said.
When he was 19, Sharp moved to metro Atlanta and currently lives in the Buckhead area with his partner of two years.
His partner was thrilled for Sharp to take the position as GLBT liaison for the APD, he said, which actually shocked and surprised him.
“He has been absolutely the most supportive person. He is completely happy and honored for me to be part of this position,” Sharp said.
“We live, participate and care about our community and whatever I can do to further the movement I want to do,” he added.
Sharp said he and his partner tend to not go out much, but can be seen occasionally playing Bitch Bingo at Joe’s on Juniper. They also like to play tennis and for the last few months they have volunteered with PFLAG.
“We were looking for a way to get involved that fit our schedule and found PFLAG and absolutely love it,” he said.
He said they share their stories with parents who are just learning their children are gay and have become sounding boards for them.
“I think they’ve learned from us and we have learned a lot from them,” he said. “This is also how we want to give back to the community.”
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