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|Atlanta police undergo LGBT training|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|March 18, 2011 00:00|
For the first time in the history of the Atlanta Police Department, the nearly 2,000 officers and civilian employees are undergoing training on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues as part of a mandatory course announced by Chief George Turner.
Turner and the entire command staff of approximately 30 people underwent the one-hour classroom training in December, taught by LGBT liaison Officer Brian Sharp. Now Sharp and Senior Patrol Officer Patricia Powell, the other LGBT liaison for the department, are teaching the class to everyone else employed by the department; the trainings will continue through May.
Recruits will also receive the training and the class will be taught once a year to all employees as a way for the department to garner better understanding and build a relationship with Atlanta’s LGBT residents.
“I think the training is a great first step,” said Glen Paul Freedman, chair of the APD’s LGBT advisory group. “Before, this was not mandatory other than a class taught only to recruits about the LGBT liaison’s role.”
Officer Sharp, in past meetings with the LGBT advisory group, said the trainings are going well with APD employees.
“I’m glad it was received the way it was. The chief has been supportive and wanted the training,” Sharp told LGBT advisory group members at their Jan. 31 meeting.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” Sharp said of training the department on LGBT issues.
Training gives ‘better understanding’
The GA Voice requested and received a copy of the Power Point presentation and the lesson plan being taught to the officers and employees.
The lesson plan includes this opening statement:
“As a member of the Atlanta police we work in a large metropolitan city with an estimated population of over 5 million people. Our police force is made up of over 1,800 diverse men and woman from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. In addition the city of Atlanta has one of the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender populations in the United States.
“That being said it is inevitable that at some point in your career as a police officer you will be called upon to deal with one of these individuals in the course of your duties. It may be a citizen in the community or it could possibly be a coworker. The purpose of the block of instruction is to outline departmental policy and procedures that must be followed in these encounters as well as give you a better understanding of the GLBT community and the citizens who make up this community.
“It is vital that every officer conduct themselves in manner that protects the rights of all individual as well as preserves the safety of the community in which we serve. An officer who is knowledgeable and confident in their abilities can demonstrate professionalism and earn the respect of both the citizens as well as coworkers.”
The training includes a brief history of Stonewall, the 1969 riot that is marked as the beginning of the modern day gay civil rights movement, and also gives explanations of why LGBT people often don’t trust the police:
• GLBT individuals were often victims of harassment from local law enforcement agencies.
Offensive word ‘transvestite’ included
The training also includes definitions of words such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and also intersex. Included in these definitions is the outdated word “transvestite” as:
“Someone who dresses in clothing generally identified with the opposite gender/sex. While the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘transvestite’ have been used synonymously, they are in fact signify two different groups. The majority of transvestites are heterosexual males who derive pleasure from dressing in “women’s clothing”. (The preferred term is ‘cross-dresser,’ but the term ‘transvestite’ is still used in a positive sense in England.)
Transvestite has been deemed offensive by many LGBT organizations, including the Gay & Lesbian Association Against Defamation.
Carlos Campos, spokesperson for the APD, said in an email that the word “transvestite” was included in the training to teach officers a word not to be used.
However, there is no indication in the materials that the word is off limits.
Freedman said the training materials continue to be revised to add new information and take out old information, including the word “transvestite.”
“The APD is learning about LGBT issues … our history, correct terms. As a first step, this training is an ever-living document and always changing,” he said. “And now there is training on words that shouldn’t be used.”
As for the word “transvestite,” Freedman said he doesn’t fault the APD and that this example provides an opportunity to update the materials for officers.
“We’re helping educate each other on the use of terms people feel more comfortable with and no one is offended by, especially within the transgender community,” Freedman said. “I think gender identity will become a lot more of the training.”
But Freedman said a misstep should not cancel out the good the training is providing.
“We have a course that is being taught by a gay man and a lesbian and the chief saying everyone will take the class,” he said.
“To go from nothing before to having this is a big step forward.”
Top photo: Atlanta Police LGBT Liaison Officers Brian Sharp and Patricia Powell teach the new class on LGBT issues that is mandatory for all police employees. (by Bo Shell)
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