Phila. D.A. building bridges to LGBT community

Posted: April 03, 2014

District Attorney Seth Williams on Tuesday led the first of a series of forums to improve relations between law enforcement and the lesbian and gay community in Philadelphia.

The focus of the forum, held at the District Attorney's Office, was safety and crime prevention, but it reflected a trend in law enforcement to better serve and be sensitive to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

The Police Department recently established a policy to be more respectful to people who are transgendered.

Last month, Philadelphia judges attended a training session on transgender issues. And last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced transgender training for local law enforcement.

"We've definitely come a long way," said Deputy Commissioner Kevin J. Bethel, who serves as the police department's top LGBT liaison.

Williams said his prosecutors recently received required continuing legal education on how to better work with the LGBT community. About 50 people attended with about half being prosecutors, police, or victim-witness advocates. Police recruiters also were on hand.

Helen "Nellie" Fitzpatrick, an assistant district attorney who organized the forum, said there are many gay and lesbian officers on the force.

A key message from the law enforcement side was for community members to report any instances of abuse, disrespect, or indifference from police. "It's about making sure you are all seen and heard," Fitzpatrick said.


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