Baltimore County Police Create "Safe Spaces" For LGBTQ+ Residents
BALTIMORE COUNTY - The Baltimore County Police Department has announced the creation of a new "Safe Space" initiative to aid LGBTQ+ residents.
Under the program, community members, businesses, schools, and organizations have the opportunity to visibly display a distinguishable "Safe Space" decal. These decals will inform members of the LGBTQ+ community that the business in question is a safe place to seek shelter from persecution and call the police.
The announcement was made by Baltimore County's new LGBTQ+ Liason Officer, Detective Jimmy Waites. Waites was appointed to the position in April and has been working to improve relationships between LGBTQ+ residents and the police since.
Waites served in the U.S. Navy for a decade and has been with the Baltimore County Police Department as a detective/ officer for 18 years. He says that having an openly gay liaison officer will go a long way toward building trust within the LGBTQ+ community.
"I wanted to help bridge that gap with Baltimore County Police Department and the LGBTQIA plus community by having a liaison in the position that identifies as a gay man," Waites said. "Being part of the LGBTQIA plus community myself, you know, I've lived through discrimination, I lived through the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy while serving in the military. I know what it feels like to be marginalized, felt seen, but not heard."
The Safe Space logo is designed to be instantly recognizable, even for someone unfamiliar with the program. The Baltimore County Police logo is overlaid with the gay pride flag and the bolded words "Safe Space."
In the event that an LGBTQ+ community member feels threatened or fears for their safety, businesses displaying this logo will offer them refuge as they recover and call the police. Displaying the logo is entirely voluntary, and logos can be obtained for free by contacting Waites or the Baltimore County Police Department.
Safe Spaces is the second initiative Waites has introduced. The first is a program called PRISM, where LGBTQ+ officers, department members, and allies can discuss issues facing the community.
PRISM and Safe Spaces are part of Waites's and Balt Co. PD's larger initiative of building trust within the community and ensuring that Gay, Bisexual, and Trans community members feel supported by local law enforcement.
As Baltimore County Police strive to be more inclusive, Waites says he hopes more LGBTQ+ officers join Balt Co. PD's ranks.
"If they're thinking about coming on the job and being a Baltimore County police officer, they'll see that Baltimore County Police are super welcoming! Come, come join us. Let us show you that we are here for you."