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Police attend seminar for sensitivity training

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Thursday August 30, 2001

About 50 law enforcement officers and 24 cadets attended an all-day seminar and training at Oakland City Hall to become more familiar with issues related to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community. 

Organizers said the seminar’s goal was to train officers to better respond to LGBT issues including hate crimes, domestic violence and the transgender community. The training sessions were given by Bay Area law enforcement officers. 

The seminar was presented by the nonprofit East Bay Pride, and the Berkeley and Oakland police departments. The training sessions were held in conjunction with the 21st World Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, which began in Oakland on Aug. 24 and ends Sept. 3. 

“We sent out 99 invitations to police and sheriffs’ departments in 10 Bay Area counties and got a good response,” said Berkeley Police Officer Kelly Gordon, who helped organize the voluntary seminar with Oakland Police Officer Becky Campbell.  

Gordon also helped develop the first-ever, mandatory LGBT training for the Berkeley Police Department.  

“Berkeley’s claim to fame is we were the first Police Department, probably in the world, to mandate LGBT sensitivity training for all department employees both sworn and non-sworn officers, from the chief to the meter maids,” she said.  

Gordon and Campbell were scheduled to be presented with the East Bay Pride Community Service Award at Wednesday’s Lighting of the Lake, an outdoor concert and Enlightenment Ceremony during which the three miles of white lights that surround Lake Merritt are changed to pink. 

Gordon said the three main goals of the seminar were to update police officers on new laws that pertain to the LGBT community, inspire officers to reflect on their respective departments to measure whether they are “gay friendly” and to humanize the LGBT community. 

“Most people either know and quite possibly love someone who is gay or lesbian,” she said, “and it’s important we better understand the LGBT community,” she said.  

In the morning, Sgt. Robin Heinemann, of the Concord Police Department, familiarized the officers with LGBT terms and then presented a cursory overview of LGBT history dating back to the 1940s.  

Heinemann talked about a variety of issues including the extermination of gays and lesbians in Nazi concentration camps, the forming of the first gay rights organization in the 1950s, the Stonewall riots in New York and the impact of AIDS on the LGBT community during the 1980s and 1990s. 

“It was during the stonewall raid that gay patrons said ‘uh uh, no more,’” and a riot ensued,” Heinemann told the audience. “And the anniversary of the riot, which occurred on June 29, 1969, is the date of gay pride parades in San Francisco, New York and several other cities.” 

In the afternoon the officers attended seminars on legal updates, transgender issues and procedures when responding to same-sex domestic violence calls. 

Peter King, founder and president of East Bay Pride, said the seminar would help the attendees be better police officers. 

“It’s an opportunity to work with the police to help them understand that all people should be treated fairly and with understanding and compassion,” he said.  

Oakland Police Officer Brad Miller said the seminar would help him with his duties as a patrol officer. 

“I will be better able to respond to same-sex domestic violence calls,” Miller said. “For the first time I learned of the Pacific Center in Berkeley, a community resource I can now refer victims of domestic violence to,” 

The Pacific Center for Human Growth is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of community services to the LGBT community. 

Lt. Richard Ridgeway, a 19-year veteran of the San Francisco Sheriffs’ Department, said the most amazing thing about the LGBT seminar was the fact that there was a LGBT seminar. 

“I know that 10 years ago the idea of this seminar would have been laughed at,” Ridgeway said. “This is just excellent.”