Law Enforcement Needs You
Have you ever thought about a career in law enforcement? Do you think LGBTQ+ people are welcome and wanted by law enforcement agencies?
There are over 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States employing more than 660,000 law enforcement officers. Most agencies are desperately seeking qualified applicants of all types to fill immediate vacancies. Chiefs and sheriffs are trying to grow a rank and file that matches the demographics of the community served by the agency. This means that all 18,000 plus law enforcement agencies need LGBTQ+ employees, because every community has LGBTQ+ people living and working in it.
Law enforcement has been an immensely rewarding career. It has been challenging, exciting, and satisfying. If I had it all to do again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Even in today’s world where it seems everyone is critical of the police, the job has so much to offer someone looking to make their community a better place to be.Greg Miraglia, President and CEO, Out to Protect Inc.
It is important to find the right agency for you. Start your search on the Internet and look at agency webpages and social media. Look for examples of the types of law enforcement service the agency provides. Look at the demographics of the employees pictured on the website.
You should consider the type of law enforcement work that you want to do. Are you wanting a fast-paced, call-to-call environment or city that allows you more time to engage with the community and a slower pace? Here are some suggestions for researching the right department for you.
- Where do you want to live? Can you afford to purchase a home within 30 minutes of the department based on the law enforcement salary offered?
- Talk to a recruiting officer or human resources representative and ask about the following:
- Does the agency have a policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression?
- Are there any “out” LGBTQ+ employees working in the law enforcement agency?
- Does the agency have an LGBT Community Liaison?
- Has the agency provided LGBT awareness training for all personnel?
- Does the agency participate in local pride events and other LGBTQ+ community events?
- Does the agency have a policy supporting the transition process for transgender employees?
- Does the medical benefit plan offered provide coverage for transgender related health care including gender re-assignment surgery?
- Is there a gender inclusive locker room or gender inclusive restroom available?
- Ask to go on a ride-along with a patrol officer and pay special attention to the following:
- How officers interact with each other. Listen for the language they use with each other. If you hear offensive language or LGBTQ slurs being used, that is a good indication that homophobia and or transphobia exists in the agency.
- How officers talk with citizens; both victims and offenders.
- Ask the officer about training opportunities offered to patrol officers.
- Ask the officer about what drew them to apply at the agency and what keeps them working there.
Of course it is also important to look closely at the pay and benefits provided, but remember that “money isn’t everything.” Look closely at medical benefits, paid time off allowances, and retirement systems. It may not seem important to think about retirement before you have even been hired, but there is a huge benefit to being able to retire at age 50 compared to age 55 or later.
Questions And Answers About Being LGBTQ+ In Law Enforcement
Can someone be fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender if a chief or sheriff doesn’t like it? – Not legally. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Bostock vs. Clayton County, made it a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to discriminate against someone in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This ruling applies to all states. This doesn’t mean that a chief or sheriff couldn’t try or find another reason, but the Bostock decision provides legal resource for an unlawful termination.
Do I need to disclose that I am part of the LGBTQ+ community during the hiring process? – It’s unlikely that you would be asked directly, but you can expect to disclose people you have lived with, if you are married, and people you have had a relationship with. If you changed a gender marker on a drivers license or other form of ID, changed your name, or changed some other indicator of gender, you will have to explain this usually during a background investigation.
Do not ever lie during an interview or background investigation. Being dishonest during the hiring process is definitely a legal and justifiable reason to not hire someone, especially as a law enforcement officer. Just be yourself and respond to questions honestly.
Do law enforcement agencies really want LGBTQ+ people to apply? – Yes, many agencies are looking for “out” members of the LGBTQ+ community to join their rank and file. This may not be true for every department, but pay close attention to recruitment fliers, posters, and advertisements. Many departments are simply looking for talented and dedicated people to serve as law enforcement officers, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.
If I am in the midst of a gender transition, should I wait to submit my application? – It depends. The hiring process for a law enforcement officer typically includes a psychological exam and a medical exam. You want to be sure you are ready both mentally and physically for the demands of the training and eventual work on the street. If you are planning major surgeries, it would be best to wait until you are fully recovered. If you are just now exploring your gender identity and considering a transition, it might be smart to focus on gender therapy and related counseling before you disclose those intimate considerations in your life to outsiders. In therapy, you may find that transition may not be for you and your situation. If you disclose before you are fully aware of the ramifications of a gender transition, it may “brand” you in future applications and background investigations. In this event continuing therapy may be advisable and any “transition” may be postponed until AFTER you have successfully completed your probationary period.
If I am transgender and have completed my transition and can “easily pass” do I need to disclose that I am transgender? – Yes. There may be good reason to share this information as well as a requirement during the hiring process. The medical exam may ask you about surgeries and prior medical treatments. You can also expect to complete a physical exam. In all cases, you don’t want to set yourself up for an accusation of dishonesty. There may also be a practical reason to disclose being transgender before starting the police academy. You want to be sure you have access to appropriate restrooms and locker rooms.
As an LGBTQ+ person, should I expect a certain about of bullying at work? – Bullying someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal in many states. A key indicator of how LGBTQ+ inclusive a law enforcement agency is is the written policy specifically prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While a policy won’t guarantee you won’t experience bullying at work, it does give you a path of recourse should bullying occur.
The answers above come from those experience with law enforcement recruitment and hiring including the International Transgender Community of Police and Sheriffs. If you are thinking about a law enforcement career and have additional questions, feel free to reach out to us using our Contact Us page. Don’t forget, Out to Protect offers scholarships to LGBTQ+ students currently enrolled in a basic law enforcement training program. Check out our John Reinert Scholarship.
We are excited about helping law enforcement recruit talent from the LGBTQ+ community. We offer a Law Enforcement Job Board with job announcements from agencies that offer an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.