We want you to be a cop! (but not if you’re queer)

Recently, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson plead guilty to DWI, resulting in calls for his resignation from the Hennepin County Board and Governor Tim Walz. While Hutchinson at this point has not resigned, he has announced that he will not run for re-election.

Personally, I was disappointed in Hutchinson as I remember finding his winning election after coming out as gay and being open about his identity. I do not disagree with those who have called upon him to resign, but there are aspects to this story that I think have been overlooked.

Being an openly queer cop arguably means being subjected to two forms of alienation. On one level, you are part of a profession that has historically been involved in the oppression of the LGBTQ community, which would mean likely being alienated from your own co-workers. At the same time, because of law enforcements involvement in oppressing the LGBTQ community, many LGBTQ individuals do not trust or respect law enforcement, leading to an LGBTQ police officer being alienated from the LGBTQ community itself.

I know many LGBTQ individuals who have experienced discomfort with and have expressed distrust toward law enforcement. I know individuals for whom even being near a uniformed police officer can induce near panic attack levels of anxiety, even in a casual setting.

At the same time, I have also experienced alienation as a law enforcement student. Most recently, I found myself at a leadership panel for one of my classes, which featured a retired police chief and a member of the Minnesota State Patrol.

The retired police chief, while talking about the need to be approachable as a leader in law enforcement, talked about how one of the ways he did this was by changing into his uniform in the locker room with the regular patrol officers during shift changes. I immediately found myself putting this tidbit into the ever growing list of “advice that does not apply to me as an LGBTQ person”. I cannot imagine a gay police chief who did such a thing as changing in the locker room regularly when he did not have to, would in fact end up being described as “approachable”.

At this leadership panel, another problem that was discussed was the shortage of applicants to police departments. Minnesota lawmakers recently proposed a $65 million dollar package to help recruit and retain law enforcement professionals.

What I see absent from the proposals to address this shortage is anything that involves fixing the active discrimination currently faced by police applicants in Minnesota. For example, Minnesota law requires that to get accepted into a college law enforcement program, one must take and pass a psych exam.

This inevitably means that applicants will most likely find themselves taking the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. This means that applicants will be taking a test that not only includes an array of questions on ones gender identity and sexuality, but was designed by psychiatrists who thought a question about whether one wanted to be a florist, was a perfectly reasonable way to determine a test takers sexuality.

While I was able to pass a psych evaluation and get accepted into the law enforcement program here at MSU, I still wound up getting a letter describing me as confused about my gender. As a non-binary individual, I cannot tell you how insulting it is to be described in such a negative, stereotypical way by a psychiatric professional.

Ever since I started taking classes here, I fought to make sure that course content included LGBTQ issues, something that many classes here are lacking. While I believe I have made some progress on these issues, I still feel that necessary and relevant material is lacking. Some days I feel exhausted just trying to get professors to stop using the terms “homosexual” or “homosexuality”.

Ultimately, discrimination against the LGBTQ community is real and exists both beyond and within the field of law enforcement. What I will admit to being genuinely confused about is why it was ever an issue in the first place.

In any event, the crisis of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups must be better addressed. Until such a day has come that we no longer face discrimination, we will continue to ask, why has it not ended today?

Write to Jeremy Redlien at Jeremy.Redlien@mnsu.edu

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