Out in Force: The New Struggle Against Sexually Oriented Policing
Aguilera’s military rationale makes sense, as heterosexual norms such as aggression are reinforced, though he argued his policing style is more passive than aggressive. The lack of training Aguilera received on how to deal with certain populations, especially GLBT members, has made it difficult for him to be sensitive in such cases as well. Additionally, Aguilera grew up in a closed, crime infested and homophobic neighborhood in Prince George’s County, Maryland. For this reason, contact with members of the GLBT community still makes Aguilera a little uneasy because he perceives GLBT culture as flamboyant and “abnormal.” However, his experiences with individuals from the community who defy his perceptions have slowly started to change his notions of the GLBT community.
In fact, Aguilera even positively discussed Metro PD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU). The GLLU is staffed by openly LGBT members of the department and their allies (GLLU 2011). The GLLU, which began in 2009, advises the Chief of Police on issues surrounding the LGBT community while focusing on providing 24-hour police response to members of the GLBT communities and MPD.25 The GLLU also produces reports on LGBT violence and crime to help promulgate and make the issue prominent within the media and abroad to all. It also offers specified services to members. Nationally and internationally, there are 11 recognized LGBT units.26
While the GLBT community still faces many challenges within departments and Paulson (2008) suggests that heterosexist values have been built into the laws, GLBT issues have started to gain national recognition due to the strong gay rights movement. The landmark Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas (2003) 27 invalidated the criminalization of sodomy for consenting heterosexual and homosexual couples in 14 states.28 The decision in Lawrence shed light on sexual privacy as a constitutional right, especially for the GLBT community. Before Lawrence, police could barge into homes if they had reasonable cause to believe sodomy was occurring. Lawrence has also led other states to enact legislation against anti-sodomy laws.
Currently, twenty states, D.C. and 140 cities and counties have laws prohibiting discrimination (i.e. in housing, employment and public accommodation) on the basis of sexual orientation (Newton 2009), which has increased public goods and services to the LGBT community over the last five years (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 2008). Some courts have even taken matters into their hands, ruling in favor of LGBT employment rights (Buhrke 1996). However, the absence of federal legislation makes the issue more difficult to solve. Some states still have the ability to create laws directly against same sex couples and LGBT rights. Five states 29 exclude same sex victims of domestic crime, for example, from provisions that support the issuance of protective orders. However, the repeal of policies such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell provides a foundation for possible national legislation.
The ongoing formation and creation of completely LGBT friendly police associations has begun to challenge the heterosexist culture that once dominated departments (Burke 1994, 1996). Because police culture is still somewhat based on gender biases, more departments will need to consider creating such LGBT friendly police associations to address problems of the community and collate research for police to use. This will help break down social barriers within police departments so they apply these practices during policing. These GLBT friendly associations must also have a racially diverse staff to address problems particular to all types of GLBT individuals as well.
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