This was an article I wrote for my JRN 400 class. It was published May 2, 2012 on our class website. I also made the side bar included in the article.
By NICOLE LaCHANCE
Spartan Online Newsroom
|ALPACT-Forum examining police and community relations and the discriminatory enforcement of laws.http://starr_12.tripod.com/nccjframe.htm|
|ACA-Oldest international corrections organization serving all corrections-related disciplines.http://aca.org/|
|MCOLES-Sets standards for law enforcement and criminal justice in Michigan.http://michigan.gov/mcoles|
|Suits and the City-Professional LGBT and ally networking.http://www.suitsandthecity.org/|
|Ties Like Me-Professional LGBT and ally networking.http://www.tieslikeme.org/|
About 12 years ago, R Cole Bouck attended a conference that gave him an idea: launching an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered criminal justice professionals to educate fellow workers, and the community, on important issues the LGBT community faces. In 2010, after much planning, MI-Goal was born.
Mi-Goal is a statewide organization that aims to improve the working conditions of LGBT criminal justice professionals, work with agencies to educate about LGBT issues and serve as a resource to the community.
“Gay people are one of the last remaining minorities that it is still OK to not like, to harass,” said Bouck, who has worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections for 26 years.
He added that criminal justice fields are very traditional, conservative fields and it is not always easy for an individual to be open about their sexual orientation.
Bouck has personal experience with the tough realities of being open to co-workers. He was “outed” early in his career and experienced harassment on the job. It became a liberating experience and Bouck decided to use it however he could to better the lives of other LGBT individuals in his professional community.
Erin Linn, MI-Goal’s treasure and a fellow founding member, believes acceptance of LGBT professionals is essential for the health of the criminal justice community.
“If a police officer can’t be honest with their co-workers about their personal life due to fear of repercussions, then they aren’t working to their fullest potential,” she said. “The organization as a whole suffers.”
Linn, who works as a road patrol officer for the Meridian Township Police Department, has been out to her co-workers since her days in the police academy and believes her honesty is part of the reason they are so accepting of her. However, while Linn has never experienced direct discrimination from those of the same rank, she says she has experienced insensitivity from superiors.
“We could get passed over for special assignments or promotions without knowing the real reason, if it’s our sexual orientation,” she said. Outright harassment is rare, but still happens, she added.
MI-Goal helps to educate and provide diversity training, which will hopefully promote acceptance, Linn said. It is also provides necessary support, mentoring and social connections to LGBT individuals in criminal justice professions.
“The law enforcement profession is very close knit for a multitude of reasons,” she said. “It is very valuable to have friends you can socialize with that understand the work you do.”
For Penny Fischer, having the support of friends is in her community is a great membership benefit of MI-Goal. Fischer, who works as an inspector for the Michigan State University Police Department, enjoys having fellow LGBT individuals to discuss issues they face in the profession. She also likes that MI-Goal educates agencies and the community in a positive way.
To help promote acceptance within the criminal justice community, MI-Goal works with various agencies to address and improve various LGBT issues in the workplace. For example, they are currently working with the Ingham County Sherriff’s Department to educate workers about LGBT issues and tolerance.
“We need to, as professionals, be able to work with many different groups of people,” said Bouck.
Bouck is proud of the work MI-Goal has done so far, and hopes to continue to be a positive part of the community.
“My objective for MI Goal is that we continue to be recognized as a legitimate law enforcement criminal justice organization advocating or LGBT and allied professionals, increasing membership and building positive relationships with agencies,” he said.
MI-Goal is open to LGBT individuals and allies in criminal justice and public safety fields and individuals retired from those fields. Those who are not in those fields but would like to support the organization have an opportunity to become a “Friend of MI-Goal.” For more information on MI-Goal and membership, visit http://www.mi-goal.com.