The City of Evanston last year decided to appoint a liaison between its police department and its LGBT residents. In December, Sgt. Melissa Sacluti, of the department's Internal Affairs division, was named to the new position.
"The powers that be at City Hall wanted somebody to take on the responsibility of fostering positive relationships between our LGBT residents and the police department," Sucluti said. "It's something that they wanted to get out in front of, and be proactive about."
Among those "powers that be" were members of the city council, including openly gay 6th Ward Ald. Mark Tendam, she added.
In a press release announcing the appointment, Tendam said, "I am extremely grateful to the Evanston Police Department [EPD] and Sergeant Sacluti. With the establishment of a police liaison, the LGBT community now has a dedicated voice serving them."
Sacluti, who has been with EPD for about a decade, said her added responsibilities came about because police and city officials "wanted to make sure that the LGBT community has a sense of inclusion, and that their voices are heard. I think that's why this position is so importantso that people who don't feel like they're being heard have someone to go to and find out what their resources are."
She could not recall any LGBT-related hate crimes in Evanston during her time with EPD, "but I have, as a patrol officer, been called out to situations where a same-sex couple is in a dispute and we have to treat it no differently. … Responding to a domestic disturbance where there's a same-sex couple or a child offense where the child might have same-sex parents are the most common situations that we would encounter."
Police officers have to attend diversity trainings year-round. Suclati said that interacting with LGBT Evanstonians makes up a large part of that training.
"I've met numerous LGBT people here, patrolling and meeting people and business owners. Evanston is extremely diverse. There's not one specific area where they live eitherthey're scattered," said Sacluti. As of the 2010 census, there were 327 same-sex couples in Evanston.
Beyond the police work, she'll have a hand in helping plan more LGBT-centric activities in Evanston. "We've been thinking about having a pride run, which is something that Chicago does, or a bike ride."
A native of Morton Grove, Sacluti currently lives on the North Side of Chicago; Evanston does not require its police officers to be residents. She and her partner have been together for 17 years and have two kids, with a third on the way.
Sacluti has always been out to colleagues and "I've always brought my partner aroundthey know her and it's never been a big deal."
She added that, in recent years, more of her fellow officers have come out as well. "Our police department is representative of our community and is so diverse. We have people from all walks of lifedifferent races, religions and backgrounds. The majority of people here are accepting of everybody else's differences."