Twelve years ago, gay and lesbian community leaders decided that the selective arrests of gay men in Silver Lake and Hollywood amounted to entrapment. So they formed the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Police Advisory Task Force to educate L.A.'s finest and make it clear that harassment would no longer be tolerated.
For the past four years, Donna Wade, co-owner of a Hollywood print shop, has worked as one of six gay task-force trainers within the LAPD’s Cultural Awareness Training program. Wade, a lesbian, volunteers at least 10 hours each month raising the consciousness of academy cadets and officers and Ventura County sheriff’s deputies--since 1980, more than half the LAPD force has participated in the program. Lately, she is focusing on what the gay and law-enforcement communities have in common.
“The majority of work we do is for the betterment of gays and lesbians and police,” says the former Roswell, Ga., cop with a slight Southern drawl. “We’re just as concerned about the media-bashing of the LAPD as we are about gay-bashing. It’s important to the task force to maintain the morale of LAPD officers who do have a conscience.”
Until recently, gay trainers were all civilians; there were no openly gay or lesbian officers on the force. Then, in June, 1991, six homosexual officers became trainers. “I hope eventually that gay and lesbian officers will make our jobs obsolete,” Wade says. “But I don’t see it happening in the near future. There’s still a lot of reluctance for other officers to come out.”
Still, the task force seems to be working. According to Wade, there is more trust between police and homosexuals than in the past. And complaints of police abuse on the Gay and Lesbian Community Center hot line are way down.
“Cops get to understand that we’re regular citizens,” Wade says, “instead of seeing us all as just Queer Nationals.”