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Monday, March 28, 2005

the stewards of gay washington

Skimming the headlines this evening during a really old rerun of The Simpsons, I came across an article on WashingtonPost.com detailing a recently created special Gay and Lesbian unit of the Washington DC police force. The article, linked here (registration required), described what the special unit does and what its purpose is. I found the article very reassuring -- it's nice to know that Washington DC not only recognizes the unique issues faced by racial minorities, but has now taken things a step further to recognize the problems that must be taken into consideration when enforcing the law within the LGBTQ community as well. In an age where many lawmakers would prefer the LGBTQ just vanish into thin air, I'm glad there's a police force willing to train officers in recognizing the facts: that there is such a thing as domestic abuse within a gay relationship, for example, let alone that one needs to have different sensitivities and approaches in dealing with it effectively. The article says that the special unit doesn't just deal with sex or sexuality, but is primarily involved in dealing with crimes that merely require the extra step of recognizing that gay relationships exist. What surprises me is that this story actually makes the news -- shouldn't it be common sense? I mean, different minority communities do have different issues that can't be dealt with with a universal approach. Sometimes, you need special units or taskforces that focus on certain communities to better understand the intricacies of dealing with the different languages, cultures, or problems that might be within those communities -- that simply recognizes the differences inherent in a mosaic or melting point culture. The problem is that too many people within law enforcement are trained only one way. Crimes and problems aren't colour-blind. After all, at Cornell, Asian Americans are approximately 13% of the student population, but they make up more than half of the number of successful suicides. Police should be about effective protection and safety, and that can only happen when the police are trained to understand the situations they are dealing with. They need to learn to make quick decisions assessing the situation and to correctly deal with the problem so as not to escalate any tensions. That can only be done by really examining different constituencies, recognizing how those different cultures and communities may change the conditions of a given situation, and learning to respond effectively. What I really don't understand is why the conservative bloggers are so against it? Disregarding this kind of movement because it gives "cultural decline" a sort of legitimacy ignores the facts that gays and lesbians do have issues that are ignored by current law enforcement. What are we really saying when we'd rather have those problems be ignored? That they aren't deserving of the protection of the law?

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