Provincetown’s First Openly Gay Police Officer

The following was printed in the Provincetown Massachusetts Banner April 4, 2013

MartinAlperen As the Supreme Court embarks on a momentous decision about the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, I am compelled to recount my experience as Provincetown’s first openly gay officer, in June, 1980. During those times, gays and lesbians were openly discriminated against, and gay men were frequently the target of “gay bashing.”

I worked as a Seasonal Police Officer during the summers or spring-summer-fall in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1987. Once I acknowledged it, the news of my sexual orientation spread like wildfire; it seemed that the entire population of P-Town and Truro knew within 24 hours. When it became known, I was ignored, my life was threatened, and on one occasion, an Auxiliary Police Officer stood by while I was fighting an arrestee. He did not back me up! After what felt like an eternity, Officer Robert Russell (ret.) came to my aid. Setting the tone for the rest of my time there, Officer Russell took me and the arrestee to jail in the police car and made the Auxiliary walk. Chief James Meads (ret.) promptly terminated that Auxiliary Officer.

My sexual orientation was not an issue ever again. I attribute that to the character and integrity of the men and women of the department, including dispatcher Joan Russell, my most regular partners Auxiliary Officer Gerard Menangas, and Regulars Robert Russell, Barry Meegan, Bill Burrell, and Warren Tobias (all ret.), and to the leadership of Chief Meads and then, Chief Robert Anthony (ret).

martin-1Every one of the “Regulars,” the remaining Auxiliaries, and the Sergeants treated me no differently than any other officer. That filtered down to the building’s custodian Richard Greene and to the Equipment Custodian, Timmy Caldwell. I have been a criminal lawyer since then, either as a prosecutor or as a defense attorney and have interacted with hundreds of officers. None of them outshine the PPD.

Excluding my not getting backup that one time, my experience as a Provincetown Police Officer has colored my entire life and career. The PPD is the measure against which I evaluate all police conduct. We did not harass, intimidate, hit with clubs, or beat people up. We did not lie, fabricate, or exaggerate. Of the hundreds of arrests I either made or was involved with, there were no fights – only what I call ‘wrestling attempts to subdue.’ When an arrestee was unruly in the back seat of the police car, Tasers hadn’t been invented yet and we did not beat them – I simply sat on them until we reached the jail.

I am proud to have been a Provincetown Police Officer. Thank you to all of you.

Martin Alperen