Police applauded for attitude of inclusion
A police station duty officer has revealed that for a decade she felt unable to bring her “whole self” to work because of people's opinions about the LGBTQ community.
Linda Bogle-Mienzer described the pain of leaving part of her identity behind when she clocked on for duty.
However, she discovered “more allies than enemies” when she came out to co-workers about eight years ago and explained how in recent months the Bermuda Police Service have made strides to make the environment still more welcoming.
An e-mail written by Ms Bogle-Mienzer was circulated among BPS staff last month as she encouraged others to join the island's first Pride celebration on August 31.
She said last week: “Some of the things I mentioned is that for me, almost for ten years, I didn't bring my whole self to work.
“What that looks like every day in this type of environment is that, of course, I'm subject to people's comments and feelings and interpretation of what they believe of people of the LGBT community and I was not able to respond.
“So it was a very painful time for me to have to come to work every day and any time there was an issue around the LGBT community, everybody had an opinion.
“It was equally painful when you work alongside people who you thought you can trust on a holistic level, only to find out that when it comes to their personal opinions they consider people like you not normal, perverts and all these sorts of things.
“Many times I thought about leaving, but for me that speaks to what it's like for people in the LGBT community as a whole, in that you have to have those conversations about whether or not you feel your workplace is a safe environment.
“When I say safe environment, it's not always physically, but I believe that mental safety is equally important.
“After ten years, I just gave up the fight and just came out anyway.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer started to be more open with close BPS friends until her “official coming out” on a professional level when she wore a suit to receive an award at an annual police ball.
She recalled a joke between herself and then Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva after his wife apparently claimed Ms Bogle-Mienzer looked better in her suit than the boss.
The duty officer added: “The reception was good, it was better than I expected and I think that speaks to what education and more people living their truth will do.
“You may actually find that you have more allies than enemies.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer, who is also the LGBTQ representative for the Public Service International Caribbean sub region, has been encouraged by recent progress within the BPS.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley announced in June the service's support for the Pride parade and for members of the LGBTQ+ community in general.
Ms Bogle-Mienzer is working with Acting Detective Inspector Derek Berry and others to consider how the BPS can keep the momentum.
She said: “It's important for me to be a part of this process and I'm glad that we now have a strong senior leadership that understands what that means, because prior to that we didn't have the appetite within the police department to move towards acknowledging diversity.
“It's not only about the LGBTQI+ but it's about diversity as a whole, and we happen to be, regardless of whether people want to admit it, we happen to be the targeted group right now.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer added: “In a small time frame, we've taken an incredible jump.
“I think the commissioner was one of the first persons in senior leadership in an organisation to come out and support, and that speaks volumes.
“I'm sure he's going to continue to take all sorts of lashing for it, but what it says beyond anything for us as a country in Bermuda, what it finally said to his own employees is that this organisation will be a place where you can bring your whole self to work.
“That's an incredible statement.”
Mr Berry became the senior investigating officer on inquiries into social-media comments related to the LGBTQ community and through that work got to know Ms Bogle-Mienzer and others, which he said was a “really eye-opening experience”.
He explained: “I don't pretend to have any knowledge of the community prior to this, but what I've found is a number of issues both internally and externally and I want to make a difference.”
Mr Berry added: “We want BPS to be a positive workplace, a place where people can come and be themselves, but also not have to think about being themselves, where it becomes the norm.”
He said the service was looking into the possibility of a “safe zone — again, we're talking about mental safety not just physical safety” where staff can meet and ask questions of people from the LGBTQ community or informed others.
Mr Corbishley explained that he was also interested in making sure the service was a welcoming environment for future employees.
He said: “Policing does have some stereotypes — macho, a bit sexist, some things like that and I'm keen to change that, so that when local communities and young people look at the police they think, actually it is diverse, the representation there is diverse and actually it's a really supportive, good employer to work for.”
The commissioner added: “From my perspective, diversity is about difference, it's about being normal.
“One of the things that has really frustrated me is when people apply the term ‘not normal' to LGBTQ+ communities.
“It's fundamentally flawed on every single level.”
Mr Corbishley said that longer-term plans in the service could include talks from members of the LGBTQ community with officers in supervisory roles.
He explained: “If you have a sergeant or inspector that demonstrates a particular style or set of values, then that naturally influences the people that they lead.”
The commissioner added: “It's not about brainwashing people; it's just about people being considerate, having values, looking out for each other.”