A transgender police officer was barred from an event she helped organize with the San Diego LGBT Community Center because of her uniform.
Nov. 17 marks the annual Transgender Day of Awareness in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Officer Christine Garcia, who transitioned in 2015 and is the first transgender police officer in San Diego, helped plan the event and was also part of the security detail for the commemorative march.
But when it came time to enter the event as a member of the LGBT community following the march, Garcia was asked to leave because she was told her police uniform might upset others in attendance.
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City Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, an LGBT activist, referred to the incident as an outrage.
“Any officer, be they gay or straight, should be welcomed into our community center in uniform,” he said. “They protect our community and neighborhoods and make San Diego a better place.”
Murray-Ramirez credits work performed by officers like Garcia with improving the relationship between the San Diego Police Department and the LGBT community over the last several decades.
“They’ve really reached out to the community,” he said of the department. “They’ve gotten to know the community. There are always rotten apples, but on a whole we have progressed greatly. And we’re very appreciative of them and that progress.”
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The San Diego Police Department said Garcia would not be available to comment to media.
Delores Jacobs, chief executive officer of the LGBT Community Center, issued an apology to Garcia and Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman.
“We do not wish to ever make any community member feel unwelcome … these officers are valued members of our community,” Jacobs wrote in a statement.
Jacobs referred to the incident as a misunderstanding of the center’s existing policy of inclusion.
“While we need to support those that are uncomfortable and honor their reactions to valid and understandable difficult previous experiences, we also need to explain that … our LGBTQ San Diego police liaisons are a valued part of our community,” she wrote.
“When they are attending events, they are not here to 'police' the center -- though they may be in uniform or on-duty,” Jacobs said, according to the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. “They are community members attending events on their lunch or dinner hours. They are welcome to be here in uniform. They are a part of our community.”
A meeting was held with the entire staff at the center to discuss moving forward.
“After this happened, the entire staff were involved in a series of discussions to clarify the center’s policy and to discuss ways to support and offer alternatives to community members who continue to be uncomfortable with police officers in uniform,” the center's Chief of Communications Amber Cyphers said in a statement.
The San Diego Police Department plans to continue working with the LGBT community.
“The San Diego Police Department enjoys having a great relationship with the LGBT community,” Police Lt. Scott Wahl, a department spokesman, wrote in a statement obtained by the The San Diego Union-Tribune. “We look forward to continuing our partnership in keeping our community safe.”
Wahl also praised Garcia’s work in the LGBT community and noted that several LGBT organizations recently honored her.