CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden will be a participant in the upcoming Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade on Aug. 18 in Uptown Charlotte.
He will be joined by LGBTQ staffers and supporters from various departments across Mecklenburg County. This marks a first for the law enforcement office and others to walk in the parade.
“The First Responders Unit of the Parade is full of staff, their families and allies alike. When creating this endeavor, we wanted to be inclusive of all law enforcement agencies in the area. For most, it is still a sensitive issue to be ‘out’ at work when in law enforcement. Unfortunately, not all agencies are supportive of this initiative. With that said, we invited everyone to shed their uniforms and march with the sheriff, under his cloak of acceptance. So maybe, just for a moment, they will truly feel completely accepted and appreciated for who they are and what they do,” the sheriff’s office emphasized.
“My decision [to walk in the parade] was based solely on my belief that I needed to serve and better understand my entire community. After meeting with several of the key members of my executive staff, it was easily decided that Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) needed a platform and vehicle to move us forward. That platform and vehicle was the LGBTQ committee,” McFadden stated.
In the meantime, the sheriff’s office with the help of Sgt. Aaron Sims has created an LGBTQ Committee to help address concerns of Mecklenburg County citizens, residents in the detention centers and sheriff’s office staff who identify as LGBTQ individuals. Its formation came after a call from office staff for change and serious self-analysis of the agency. Upon election, McFadden received a change proposal from staff. Paired with his own passion for unequivocal civil rights, the committee was created. From that moment, the numbers have steadily grown and projects realized.
The committee is an organization which supports LGBTQ sworn, civilian and retired members of Mecklenburg County Law Enforcement agencies. “We strive to build lasting relationships between Law Enforcement and Mecklenburg County’s LGBTQ communities by advocating equal and fair treatment for all. The vision of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) LGBTQ Committee is to provide service, education and protection on LGBTQ issues in Mecklenburg County for Law Enforcement personnel and the citizens alike,” the sheriff’s office said.
Currently, the committee has representation and composition of sworn and civilian staff, as well as medical personnel. (There are approximately 107 staffers who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.)
“Sheriff McFadden has expressed unprecedented support and commitment to ensure that LGBTQ rights are being addressed and analyzed to better both those on his payroll as well as the community he is charged to serve. For those within the agency moniker, the creation of the committee was just a necessity personified. In order to create change, it must first begin from within and that entailed support of staff who identify within the LGBTQ spectrum. Once there, analysis of current policies and practices ensued as well as development of training and workshops conducive in ensuring that LGBTQ rights of staff and those in custody are being addressed and protected. Sheriff McFadden has continued to show his commitment and support by personally meeting with prominent LGBTQ community organizations to advance his knowledge and seeking to better the time any queer offender has in the Detention Center or any exposure a queer individual may have with a Sheriff Deputy. While he is the sheriff, these policy changes and actions will be slow to start but once implemented, it’ll leave an everlasting effect on the jail and the community,” office representatives stated. This is essential considering the current political and societal climate.
Sheriff McFadden added, “In my career with CMPD [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department], I worked closely with members of the LGBTQ community who are also employees of the department. I’ve had the pleasure of establishing lifelong friendships and confidants. My interest in the LGBTQ community is nothing new. My new role as sheriff allows me the opportunity and platform to make a difference and implement positive changes. “
Accessibility to the community is key to the committee. They will continue reaching out to local organizations, assisting with fundraisers, community forums and donation drives. “We encourage the community to reach out with suggestions and needs as well,” the sheriff’s office shared.
They added, “Alongside Charlotte’s First Responders, the Sheriff’s Office has spearheaded a collaborative effort with [the] Charlotte Fire Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and MEDIC to participate and march in Charlotte Pride 2019. We want to celebrate the men and women who identify as part of the community and have taken an oath to protect and serve. In addition, we are currently in the process of teaming up with Time Out Youth to create an event where we open our ears to community and youth complaints surrounding LGBTQ confinement. Our goal is to hear the opposing side to identify the cause and then create a solution together.”
The MCSO LGBTQ Committee is the first organized effort to recognize and support civilian and retired members of Mecklenburg County Law Enforcement Agencies.