D&R Hosts Fire & Police Commission Meeting

July 14, 2014

Last week the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission held their public meeting in our youth space on Holton Street. The space was packed with commission members, the executive director, fire and police chiefs, police officers, fire fighters, administrators, and community members. Both the Fire and Police Departments outlined plans that are in progress to improve service to the LGBTQ community in Milwaukee. D&R was asked to give comments about what is working well and what can be improved from both departments. Below is a selection of comments from Gary Hollander, CEO:

We enjoy good relationships with the Mayor’s office, the Health Department, Milwaukee Public Schools, and members of the Common Council. We have multiple relationships with the Milwaukee Fire and Police Departments, but these have not been as deep because we are a public health organization and emphasize prevention. There are more opportunities than time, but we hope to pursue these as resources allow.

In terms of the Departments, it is my observation that disclosure of sexual identity by officers remains a problem. Until the benefits of disclosing outweigh the disadvantages, they will not come out. This will result in ongoing risk for those officers and others.

The vast majority of LGBTQ people in Milwaukee enjoy the safety and emergency services provided by the Fire and Police Departments. But the most vulnerable among us do have experiences that warrant our attention. These concerns include:

  • Hate crimes and the challenging state rules that complicate their accurate reporting and prosecution.
  • Youth in need of shelter.
  • Management of citizen complaints about people whose gender expression makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Vulnerable seniors who may not have the benefit of extended family in times of need or who may have care providers from individuals who are their families of choice.
  • Emergency services when spousal and partnership relationships may not have been completely spelled out legally.
  • Condom distribution to reduce sexual risk making some uncomfortable, resulting in threats to health workers.
  • Partner violence in same-sex relationships, especially in male partnerships where the violence is considered a fight between two guys.
  • Safety of LGBTQ people in and around schools, events like PrideFest, universities, bars and clubs, organizations, and in public transportation.
  • Sex trafficking.

It is also important that the Commission remember that LGBTQ people and our organizations serve as concerned and active citizens. We are a hub in this neighborhood. While we are a gay organization, we are a hub of safety and support for our neighbors who have come to count on us.

We were honored to host the commission at our offices and look forward to welcoming members back in the future.