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Professor Colvin Shows How Inclusion of Gay and Lesbian Police Officers Improves Law Enforcement

Associate Professor Roddrick Colvin in the Department of Public Management provides groundbreaking insight into the lives of lesbian and gay police officers in his new book, Gay and Lesbian Cops: Diversity and Effective Policing. Colvin explores how barriers and opportunities in the workplace have changed over the last 20 years for lesbian and gay people working in law enforcement, and shows how inclusion actually makes for better policing.

Colvin’s research reveals that including lesbian and gay people in the police ranks has been met with resistance among various departments.  However, he also found that departments that have included lesbian and gay people in the ranks have actually improved their policing effectiveness.  He shows how these police officers have been instrumental in sensitizing police departments to gay-related crimes and incidents, including same-sex intimate partner violence and anti-gay hate crimes.  In the book, he tells the dramatic story of two lesbian officers who were instrumental in helping solve a murder because they were of the community and brought cultural competence to facts of the case.

“Over the past 20 years, we have seen some dramatic changes both inside and outside of law enforcement. Inside law enforcement, we have observed the emergence of community policing, the formation of lesbian and gay officer professional associations. In terms of factors outside of law enforcement, things like the repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, marriage equality in several states, the adoption of hundreds of local nondiscrimination laws and policies, all have contributed to an environments that has been conducive to changes in law enforcement,” said Colvin.

One interesting and unexpected discovery that Colvin made in his research was the strong connections between the struggles of all traditionally underrepresented people in law enforcement.

“I was also able to draw clearer and more refined connections between the efforts of lesbian and gay police officers and the previous efforts of women and people of color in policing, especially, African-Americans. Without a doubt, these previous struggles made it possible for lesbian and gay people to integrate themselves into law enforcement,” said Colvin. 

Professor Colvin hopes this book inspires people to consider careers in law enforcement regardless of their sexual orientation and that it serves as a guide to “best practices” that police departments can use as they attempt to diversify their organizations. He also hopes it will provide academics with a framework to improve their understanding of how and why organizations embrace change.

Professor Colvin`s book was published by Lynne Rienner Publishing.