by Margo Hall | photo courtesy Metro Nashville Police Department
In January of this year, Metro Nashville Police chief announced the appointment of a LGBT+ Liaison Officer to the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). The new position provides a bridge between LGBT+ people and MNPD. Who better for the position than Officer Catie Poole, a member of the LGBT+ community she serves.
Poole has been with the MNPD for six years with a lot of that time as a bicycle officer in downtown Nashville. As a LGBT+ officer, Poole was eager to take on the position as a liaison between the department and the community. One goal of both Poole and the city of Nashville has been the initiation of the “Safe Place Program.” This program is adopted from Seattle’s police department to “address the lack of reporting hate crimes when they occur.” In order to do this, the department and its officers need to get to know the community to provide confidence to the citizens and empower them to report crimes when they occur.
For those who may be afraid of reporting crimes, Officer Poole suggests “call the police department. They can meet wherever is needed and can help keep it closed door.” It is critical for victims of hate crimes to report to authorities. “They may not be the only victim, and if they don’t come forward the suspect may continue to hurt other people. The faster they can get justice for victims, the better they can keep the community safe,” explains Poole.
The goal is to keep people safe and the police can’t do that without the help of the communities they serve. While the police department does not offer any self-defense courses, she noted that there are several private places in the area that do. Her biggest piece of advice is vigilance. “Just be aware of your surroundings, stay alert, avoid poorly lit areas, and stay in groups.”
When asked if she has experienced any pushback with the new position thus far, Poole said she has not. “MNPD seems to be different from other police departments in Tennessee. [With] MNPD it is unacceptable for officers to be homophobic.” She asks that if people experience bad behavior from any officers, to report it. Because of the department’s zero tolerance for bigotry, she has felt comfortable enough to be herself and hasn’t experienced any difficulties. She hopes “homophobia will become less of an issue over time.”
I asked Officer Poole what LGBT+ people who want to make a difference as officers should do, and she simply said: “just apply.” She also said, “It is important for the department to reflect the community to help it relate better. Diversity is a strength for any agency.” When asked what smaller police and sheriff departments can do to implement an LGBT+ liaison or programming of their own, Poole’s advice is simple, “look into what it entails, learn about it, and adopt it.” She went on to say, “Community requests can help push it forward, but it needs to come from within the department itself.”
“I’ve always loved the phrase, ‘be the change you want to see in the world,’ being in this position puts me in a prime place to act on that and to be able to see the change happening and to better my community.”
Questions or concerns can be directed to Officer Poole, Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org