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|Atlanta police LGBT liaison Patrica Powell profiled|
|by Dyana Bagby|
|July 23, 2010 00:00|
After a three-year stint in the Army, Patricia Powell was managing her brother’s barbecue restaurant, Hecky’s in Evanston, Ill., when she got a phone call from her sister in Atlanta.
“She said I should move down here, they were hiring police officers. I said, ‘Me, a police officer?’ She said you’d be good, you’re in shape,” Powell said.
Powell, who played basketball for the Army (position: guard), was ready to move from the cold climate of Chicago and the restaurant business and try something new.
So at 35 she packed her bags, moved to Atlanta and began the process of becoming an APD officer. Some 11 years later, she was named the department’s LGBT liaison officer.
Powell held several positions in the department — including patrol officer, security for Mayor Shirley Franklin, recruitment and training at the airport — before she was appointed to the liaison post in May.
“They were looking for someone and Mayor [Kasim] Reed wanted two [LGBT liaisons]. Knowing I’ve been gay for many years and that I was comfortable being out and had established relationships in the department, here I am,” she said.
“It’s been very demanding, overwhelming at times but fun also,” Powell acknowledged. “And you know, it kind of goes in waves. It’s up and down because there’s so much to do in the community.”
A typical day includes answering phone calls and checking emails and responding to requests for information. She also supervises 22 cadets — young people ages 16-20 who receive public assistance and who are mentored by the APD.
The summer cadet program ends July 31, meaning Powell will then be working full-time on LGBT issues for the department.
Powell has a partner of five years, who works as a firefighter. She also has a 5-year-old son.
Being openly gay on the police force was never a problem, Powell said.
“I’m not one to go out and say, ‘Hey, I’m gay.’ But whenever I had a desk assignment I had a picture of my partner and our child. If people ask, I tell them. And then word gets out, you know, ‘Powell, she’s gay,’” she said.
She said her duties include reaching out to the LGBT community by attending various social and networking events, and she now serves on the board of the Atlanta Executive Network. Her major project is developing a nine-member LGBT advisory board to the APD that she hopes will begin meeting in the fall and then meet each quarter.
“I’m a people person. I’m not a standoffish person. I think that helps,” she said. “Of course not everybody’s not going to be happy and I know that, but starting fresh, were trying to move forward, and with the support from my superiors we are moving in positive direction.”
Top photo: Atlanta Police Department LGBT Liaison Officer Patricia Powell (by Dyana Bagby)
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