The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) is the latest of several Florida counties to start a LGBT liaison program.
Sheriff Ric Brashaw launched the program in early July with three officers with the goal of strengthening the relationship between the LGBT community and PBSO. The liaison program is now up to five officers, said PBSO public information officer Therese Barbera.
“The program is still a work in progress for us … We hope to be sitting down with Compass [the LGBT community center of the Palm Beaches] in Lake Worth in the next few weeks to ascertain what they would like to see in the liaison deputies,” Barbera said.
Other counties and cities that have recently initiated similar programs since include Orange County, Miami Beach, Jacksonville, and FortLauderdale.
PBSO has also reached out to other local LGBT organizations already, including Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC). President Rand Hoch said he and Bradshaw talked about the program’s goals and future.
“We were thrilled when we found out [PBSO was gaining LGBT liaisons],” Hoch said. “For people in our community to be able to pick up the phone and see someone inside the sheriff’s office that cares, that’s huge.”
The five liaisons are Lt. Beth Krivda, detectives Roham Raschty and LaShawnna Edwards, and deputy sheriffs Michelle Bonan and Megan Valerzo. They all volunteer for the position while staying on top of their prior responsibilities.
According to the PBSO website, some of the LGBT liaisons’ duties include:
- Meet with and provide a forum for business owners, community groups, and individuals of the LGBT community, and present information on relevant law enforcement issues
- Assist and advise, as needed, with the sheriff’s office leadership on cases involving the LGBT community or LGBT issues
- Collaborate with community leaders, businesses, and residents to design and implement public safety projects and programs to increase and improve the safety of the LGBT community
Barbera added that the liaison team will also soon participate in its first LGBT fundraiser. The team is biking in The SMART Ride, a 165-mile bicycle ride from Miami to Key West on Nov. 15 and 16. The proceeds from the race will go toward Compass and other HIV/AIDS prevention organizations.
Hoch said he was “very optimistic” about PBSO’s new program. He applauded Bradshaw for the move and added, “He wants his department to look like the community.”
The remaining steps PBSO is taking will be to write a formal policy and procedure on interacting with the LGBT community — “both within our ranks and outside,” Barbera said.
“If somebody’s pulled over, rightfully or by mistake, if a deputy doesn’t treat them with respect because they’re LGBT, that compounds the issue at hand,” Hoch said. “Now, they have someone to talk about it — they have someone who is empathetic and sympathetic.”