Cleveland: Police get sensitivity training for Gay Games

5:51 PM, Sep 9, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Cleveland will host 10,000 gay athletes, some with a variety of sexual preferences and gender identities, next summer.

And all 1,500 Cleveland police officers are getting a course on terminology, culture and personal sensitivity to help them better serve and protect the visitors while Cleveland is in the global spotlight.

Phyllis Harris, director of Cleveland's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, is conducting weekly Monday sessions at the Cleveland Police Academy.

WKYC's Tom Beres has more at 6 and 7 on Channel 3 News.

One bit of simple advice for officers trying to relate to persons they are dealing with -- ask them what pronoun they would like to be addressed by.

She says her goal is to find "how we can better connect and how we can get to a place of appreciation as there are people with different sexual orientation and gender identities that exist in the city of Cleveland."

Yes, the subject is awkward, and there is a lack of awareness.

In Monday's class, not a single officer acknowledged knowing about The LGBT Center, which offers its community medical, legal, emotional and social support. It's been existence almost 40 years.

The Police Department asked for this first-of-its-kind training with an eye to next year.

Lt. Brandon Kutz, in charge of academy training, said, "We want them (officers) to better understand when certain language is used or they see someing they are not comfortable with. We don't want them to have to deal with the hurdle as it's coming at them. We want them to be prepared for it."

About 900 officers have been trained so far.

The training occurs as the city has racked up an increase in hate crimes against the gay community.

There are at least five reported incidents so far this year. Previous years have seen one or two.

Harris believes there is no big increase in anti-gay violence.

She thinks more victims are now brave enough to report it and, perhaps, more officers who have had training are classifying such crimes as something more than generic assaults. 


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