MILLERSVILLE, Md. — For Corporal Katelynn Stanley, if she could go back in time, she would carry a message with her.
“When I was growing up, it wasn't always easy to express that I was a member of the LGBTQ community,” she said. “If I could talk to my younger self, I probably wouldn't believe that I'm doing what I'm doing these days.”
These days, Cpl. Stanley is the LGBTQ liaison officer with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland.
“[It’s] a position that helps us bridge the gap between the police department and members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Cpl. Stanley said. “It helps to have somebody that can relate to what they're going through and a little bit more of a personal level rather than a professional level.”
When that happens, she said, it can help create a greater comfort level and trust during investigations.
“It helps victims feel a little bit more comfortable,” she said. “A lot of times, if they know that they're speaking to an officer who is a member of the LGBTQ community, they feel a little bit more comfortable coming forward.”
While Cpl. Stanley is the only LGBTQ liaison officer in her department, she is hardly alone across the country.
Starting in 1962 with the San Francisco Police Department, LGBTQ liaison officers can now be found in police, fire and EMS departments across the country.
There are LGBTQ liaison officers in police departments in cities like Tampa, Cleveland and Salt Lake City to smaller communities, like in Waco, Texas and Lansing, Michigan. They also work in fire departments, like in Baltimore, and EMS departments, such as in New Orleans.
“I think LGBT communities are particularly challenged by the fact that they're not visible. You know, you can't look at someone and say, ‘Oh, you're part of the LGBT community,’” said Greg Miraglia, a former law enforcement officer. “So, we have to find ways of finding those communities - and the liaison is a good person to do that.”
Miraglia is CEO of “Out to Protect,” a nonprofit organization that provides training to departments on LGBTQ issues and awareness. It is also a network for officers, with nearly 200 members from across the country.
“We're hoping to see more agencies come on board, more agencies step up, and more individual liaisons that are currently working to join our network,” he said.
Miraglia said that is important because LGBTQ liaisons can have an impact on public safety and investigations.
“In my time in law enforcement, I can't say that there's been a time where trust between the community and law enforcement has been at an all-time low,” he said. “You have to have trust in order for people to believe in you and to call you when they need help, and it's something we have to constantly work out.”
It is a responsibility that Cpl. Stanley understands.
“We're here for you in any way that we can be,” she said.
Something that can potentially make communities safer for everyone.