Search for New Police Chief, LGBTQ Activist Expresses Concern

Some of Denton’s LGBTQ community members have expressed concern regarding inequality throughout the county, specifically the injustices dealing with police. It’s intended that a new appointed chief of police in Denton could help alleviate this as Denton PD has made attempts to include several community organizations in the process of choosing the new chief.

Six finalists were named for the spot of Denton police chief, and as part of the selection process, an interview panel will be held with local organizational leaders. They will set the stage for voiced comments and concerns for the finalists. OUTreach Denton, recognized for their safe space given to LGBTQA youth and adults, will be participating on the panel.

Kamyon Conner is the former chair for OUTreach Denton and is representing for the process. She has her doubts about the outcome as she’s tried collaborating with Denton PD before.

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“We’ve contacted them to see if we could do like an educational event to bridge the gap between our community and others with the help of police, but they’d never respond,” Conner said.

Conner worries about who the new chief of police would be due to previous discrimination against the community. In 2016, Denton County GOP Sheriff Candidate, Tracy Murphree, called for violence against transgender people in the bathroom debate.

“When there have been other events that we’re invited to, I’ve had LGBTQ people worried about the police presence out of legit fear if they were nearby,” Conner said.

The Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index rates different cities on a scale according to the how local laws, policies and opportunities give leeway to acceptance for LGBTQ communities. Denton scored a 12 out of 22 with law enforcement in 2017.

Fair enforcement includes responsible reporting of hate crimes and engaging with LGBTQ communities. The state of the LGBTQ community’s relationship with the city based off of leadership commitment to include and advocate for equality, was 4 out of 8 in 2017.

The overall score for Denton including non-discrimination laws, municipality for employer and municipal services was 44 out of 100.

OUTreach Denton was created because organizers said Denton needed a place where LGBTQ youth and adults could gather for mutual support, resources, organizing, advocacy, and fun. With other organizations like Queer Liberation, Stonewall Democrats, PFLAG Denton, and GLAD at UNT, the representation of the community for the chief of police panel interview is imperative for the community.

Sarah Kuechler is the Director of Public Affairs for the City of Denton and says an LGBTQ liaison for the Police Department, Deputy Chief Chris Summitt, was recently named.

They are currently in the process of establishing a relationship with OUTreach Denton and working to establish relationships with leaders in the LGBTQ community as it is important that they know and have access to trusted points of contact.

Kuechler said the Denton Police Department is the recipient of a grant through the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“A large component of the grant is for training that focuses on a victim-centered response. In addition, the Denton Police Department will be receiving training for dealing with populations that have historically had difficulty accessing services from police. This is will include training specific to the LGBTQ community.”

For Conner, it’s hard to say if she’d be hopeful. For her, it’s great that the Police Department is being proactive with letting the community weigh in on choosing their new police chief.

Because of prior experience though, or lack thereof with collaboration, Conner said she hopes they’re not just a box getting checked off on a list for the department.

“As a lesbian woman of color, I often get let down by our government, our judicial system, and police. It’s just hard to be let down anymore.”

Denton will host a community reception for members of the public to meet the candidates. The reception will be held tonight at the Public Safety Training Center, 719 E. Hickory St., from 7 to 8:30 p.m. All community members are welcome to attend.

Images by Tori Falcon
Header image design by Sara Button