PWPD Promises Fair Treatment to LGBT Community

| October 16, 2014 | 0 Comments | Community

First Sergeant Joe Dombrowski presents.

Prince William Police presented on safety for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) community at the PFLAG (Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Prince William meeting Friday evening at the Bull Run Unitarian (BRUU) Congregation.

“[Members of] the Prince William County Police Department … we care about the LGBT community. We value LGBT people as citizens here and want to be there for you,” presenting officer Officer Matthew Newbauer told attendees.

Personal Experience with the LBGT Community

First Sergeant Joe Dombrowski gave the introductory presentation, assuring attendees that the Prince William Police will not be discriminating against them.

Dombrowski said LGBT residents should expect fair and equal treatment from the Police William Police. He spoke from experience, being a gay man and a member of the Prince William Police Department.

He made his sexual orientation and family situation known to his employer as soon as he joined the department, and explained that everyone has been very welcoming and accepting of him.

Dombrowski gave his account about how he came out to his parents as a teenager in the 1990s. They first sent him to a therapist, but ultimately it was the therapist who convinced his parents that there was nothing wrong with him.

Dombrowski said he could understand how some members of the LGBT community might be afraid to reach out to police since there is a stereotype that police work is a very macho profession. However, he said that the Prince William Department is very open and accepting.

“It is the most amazing experience working with them,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s unique to just Prince William.”

Laws to Protect Citizens

After Dombrowski shared his personal story, Newbauer presented on some laws and how they might be used to protect LGBT people.

Officer Matthew Newbauer gives the safety presentation.

Newbauer said it is unfortunate that the Commonwealth of Virginia has not added gender identity or sexual preference to their protected class of citizens. Because of this, perpetrators will not receive a harsher sentences for committing a hate crime against an LGBT person. However, there is still much the police can do to protect LGBT people when people commit crimes against them.

While harassment or bullying, such as calling names, or making menacing phone calls, is not a criminal offense in and of itself, sometimes harassment crosses over into stalking, which is.

In Virginia, stalking is defined as repeated conduct which places a person, or his or her family, in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.

Even though harassment is not a crime in Virginia, Newbauer suggested that people call the police when they are being harassed so the police can start a paper trail.

And while they do not receive special status, Newbauer said LGBT folks do not have to worry about the police ignoring their claim or discriminating against them.

“We don’t pick and choose who we enforce the law for,” he said.

And while bullying is not illegal, if it is occurring to students in school, the administration can take action.

Another law that is enforceable is vandalism. Even though police cannot prosecute based upon a homosexual slur, the act of vandalism itself is still considered a criminal offense.

Recognizing Depression and Suicide

Next, the officers played a short video on suicide and depression because statistics show that LGBT people are three times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers. Often it is isolation from family, friends and community that causes the most emotional pain.

Officer Newbauer warned the attendees to look out for warning signs in friends and family members. An informational video warned parents not to be dismissive if their children seem depressed or suicidal.

General Safety

To stay safe, Newbauer advised people to take precautions when meeting up with anyone they met on internet dating sites or via apps like Grindr, Tinder or Blendr because anonymity can attract predators.

He said, true to the stereotype, most crimes take place at night. He suggested not walking alone and parking in well-lit areas.

Where to Turn for Help

Office Newbauer said that ACTS Turning Point is a place to stay if people feel they are being threatened or abused at home. ACTS does not discriminate. He also said that officers will investigate domestic abuse, and they do not discriminate against same-sex relationships.

PFLAG and the Gay, Straight Alliance are also places where people can turn if they need a sympathetic community.

Marcia Whaley, an SRO (Safety Resource Officer) for Prince William County Schools, said that LGBT students should also feel welcomed to talk to their SRO officers at school.

Thoughts on the Event

Jason Shriner was instrumental in organizing the police presentation.

PFLAG member Jason Shriner helped to organize the event after meeting Officer Matthew Newbauer at a Red Cross event.

Shriner said working with the police department was just one way PFLAG could help serve its members.

“PFLAG loves partnering with local organizations to promote their mission of keeping families together.

Shriner explained that connecting with the police was not a specific objective of the group, but rather a happy coincidence.

He said that more than learning about crime prevention, members of PFLAG wanted to know if they had allies on the Prince William Police Department.

“It’s not so much that LGBT people don’t feel safe, but that they don’t feel like they are heard, or worse [they feel] that they don’t matter,” Shriner said.

PFLAG members have concerns that perhaps hate crimes ranging from bullying to physical assault go unreported or misreported because the LGBT community members feel police won’t treat them equally or respectfully. Some may even be in fear of being “outed” in the community by reporting a crime.

However, the presentation alleviated much of that fear for the community.

“The presentation tonight is the police department reaching out to the LGBT community, telling us that we matter and they are here for us,” Shriner explained.

Shriner said that parents of LGBT children of all ages in his group were equally as excited about this presentation since they worry about their children’s safety and self-esteem.

Shriner also said the police have been very open to working with them.

“From the moment we met Officer Newbauer at the community event, he has told us he has been looking for a way to reach out to the LGBT community,” Shriner said.

Shriner thanked First Sgt. Dombrowski for sharing his story, and Officer Newbauer for his thorough presentation.

“The officers have put a lot of thought and effort into this presentation and we couldn’t be more grateful. The police department and PFLAG are looking forward to a lasting relationship that will only enhance the Prince William County community as a whole.”

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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