One of the first things Jim Ritter did when he became LGBTQ liaison officer for the Seattle Police Department earlier this year was to page through reports of hate crimes. The numbers indicated a possible modest uptick in attacks and menacing behavior aimed at the gay community. Anecdotally, however, Ritter was encountering something very different.
“I’m getting calls from people saying it had happened to them or their friends,” Ritter recalled. “I’m getting calls from people and they’re not matching up with the reports I have. I’d say, ‘Well, did you report these?’ and they’d say no. It was clear to me that this was a huge problem for us, because if we don’t know about it we can’t devote resources to it.”
That realization that hate crimes were more frequent than the numbers indicated prompted Ritter to create the Seattle Police Department Safe Place program. Designed to identify plentiful safe and secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment, SPD Safe Place’s mission is intentionally uncomplicated. Window clings with the program’s rainbow logo are circulated to Seattle area businesses and public facilities identifying them as places where staff who’ve received SPD Safe Place training will call 911 and allow victims to remain on the premises until police arrive. Read more via Starbucks