Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Police Get Lesson on Helping LGBT Crime Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Police Get Lesson on Helping LGBT Crime Victims

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS * When a crime victim advocate asks police officers to write down the three things that matter most to them, the most common responses are:

Job. Spouse. Children.

Then Jessica Meyers pairs the officers up and tells them to have a conversation without mentioning those topics. That's how she starts an hourlong training program meant to show officers how gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual crime victims may feel when talking to them.

"It really appeals to police officers because they love to interrogate each other," said Meyers, the director of Advocacy Services for the Crime Victim Advocacy Center of St. Louis. "But they soon find out that a simple question such as, 'What did you do this past weekend,' can force someone to make a choice: tell the truth and out themselves, lie or become evasive.

"It shows them what it's like to be closeted about something for fear of being outed."

The training that some officers went through Thursday is a far cry from the department's first documented gay sensitivity training in 1950, Meyers said.

The 1950 version included a reading from the book of Leviticus and the use of terms such as "sexual perversion." Back then, most police encounters happened during raids at gay bars because homosexuality was illegal, she said.

Police Chief Sam Dotson could not recall how much training on the topic has taken place since then, and he acknowledged that Meyers' training was "long overdue."

Those early roots have led LGBT victims of crime, such as domestic violence in same-sex partner relationships, to mistrust police and believe officers won't help. They have also led some aggressors to use those stereotypes of officers to silence their victims, Meyers said.

Gay and transgender people are often victims of human trafficking, hate crimes and homelessness and are not as likely to call police when they are victims of domestic violence, she said.

"A man might tell his male partner a police officer isn't going to do anything for them because they don't believe a man can be beaten by another man," Meyers told a group of commanders at police headquarters. …

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