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|New Atlanta Police LGBT liaison: ‘I work for you, with you’|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 11 May 2012 00:00|
Officer Kristin Knight made her first official public appearance as the Atlanta Police Department’s new LGBT liaison at the HRC Dinner May 5, but she has been out and open on the force since she began working on foot patrol seven years ago.
Knight, 30, said she came out to her family when she was 18 and moved to Atlanta to attend Clark Atlanta University from Milford, Conn., where she was born and raised.
“I came out when I was 18. It coincided with growing up and moving out, when I felt more comfortable saying who I was,” she said in an interview at Atlanta Public Safety Headquarters.
The reaction from her family when she told them?
“Yeah, we already kind of knew,” Knight said with a laugh.
Knight joins Officer Brian Sharp as the APD’s two LGBT liaisons. She replaces Senior Patrol Officer Pat Powell, who took the job in 2010 at the height of the LGBT community’s discontent with the APD as part of the fallout of the unconstitutional raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a Midtown gay bar.
The then-underutilized liaison post was at the center of the controversy, as the previous liaison was not notified or involved in the raid, and did not learn of it until called by the press for comment.
Since that time, the APD has increased the LGBT liaison unit to two officers, created an LGBT citizen advisory board, and also implemented changes to the department required by the federal court settlement in the Eagle case.
Powell is now working in the APD’s background and recruitment department as part of the continuing career development and changes all officers undergo, said APD spokesperson Carlos Campos.
Police Chief George Turner praised all three officers in a press release announcing Knight’s appointment.
“We’ve made great strides in strengthening our relationship with the LGBT community and I expect Officer Knight will keep up the great work already done by SPO Powell and Officer Sharp,” Turner said.
‘Not the conventional police officer’
Knight joined the force seven years ago and had dreams to work for the FBI.
“Initially I used APD kind of as a stepping stone,” she said. “I was interested in going federal at a young age. But once I got with APD and law enforcement I found it really fulfilled my desires of what I wanted to do. I wanted to have contact with people and not sit behind a desk.”
Before joining the Atlanta Police Department, Knight worked as a server at Houlihan’s in Sandy Springs near Perimeter Mall as well as security jobs and with the Transportation Security Administration at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Knight began her duties with the APD working in Zone 5 on foot patrols and then transferred to the Auburn Avenue area where she worked patrols in a car and answered 911 calls.
“When I worked foot patrol, we were in the business corridor downtown and served as ambassadors to the public,” she said.
Despite a testy relationship between some in Atlanta’s gay community and the APD, Knight said now is the “perfect” time to become the LGBT liaison.
“The climate is great as far as the way the public perceives the APD; it seems a lot better than in the past,” she said.
But, she added, there is always room for growth and understanding. She knows, too, that criticism is part of the job.
“You can’t make everyone happy all the time. I’m a strong believer in that. All you can do is your best,” she said. “I’m not the conventional police officer. I like to think outside the box. I prefer to be on foot. I want to hear from people first. Right now we have chance to find new ways to get closer.”
Knight said she hopes to implement the national “It Gets Better” initiative at the APD, similar to videos made by the San Francisco Police Department and other organizations and departments. “As we have seen, several LGBT youth committed suicide. This is very bothersome to me and I think we can prevent it,” she said.
Other plans include holding public safety seminars geared to LGBT people about safety and date-rape drugs, she said.
First and foremost is to listen to people’s concerns, she said.
“I want to tap into what the public wants. I’m not here to do what I want to do but what they want to do,” she said. “My desire to get out there and hear what everyone wants. I look forward to getting information from the people I’m working for. As far I’m concerned, I’m working for you, with you.”
Top photo: Atlanta Police LGBT liaison Kristin Knight said she likes to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to serving the public. (by Dyana Bagby)
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