CPD introduces LGBTQ liaisons to improve community trust

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Phoebe Flores has been a Chicago police officer for 11 years, working on some of the city's most dangerous districts, but she's about to take on a new role she sees as personal and necessary.

"I look at the Chicago Police Department and the LGBTQ community as both my families. I want to be the bridge between the two families," she said.

Flores is one of six new LGBTQ+ liaisons within CPD, one for each of the five areas and another for the city at large.

"These officers have lived experiences," said CPD Supt. David Brown. "We are shooting for authentic relationships, we are not shooting for the traditional police-community relationships."

Brown said the liaisons, all members of the LGBTQ community, will assist victims in reporting hate crimes, support LGBTQ officers struggling with their own identities and work on reforms to improve the relationship between police and the community.

"Many times when someone is a victim of a hate crime, assault, or other form of crime, they are afraid or hesitant to report that to police. They believe police won't take them seriously or won't help them," said CPD Community Policing Deputy Director Michael Milstein.

The history between police and the LGBTQ community has always been a strained one. Reyna Ortiz has experienced profiling firsthand, as has the trans youth of color she helps at her organization Task Force Prevention.

"Youth coming to my space on the West Side, messaging me, calling or showing me tickets, 'A cop pulled me over and gave me a ticket for soliciting while I was walking to the youth space,'' she said.

Ortiz and other LGBTQ advocates said the CPD liaisons are a good start to repair the relationship, but not the only thing needed.

Supt. Brown himself admits the liaisons are not enough. He hopes to have more throughout the CPD hierarchy, including in the command staff and the detective and patrol divisions.

Officer Flores said there is a lot more work to do, but she and the other liaisons are confident they will help make a difference to change a culture.
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