NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — They’re the men and women who keep Norfolk safe, but under the badges, some of them are also members of our LGBTQ community.
Sergeant Chris Barnes, Corporal Steven Bissett and Detective Alyce Clark are all openly gay, something the Norfolk Police Department accepted.
“Coming to the police department initially it was a little scary because I didn’t know whether I’d be able to be me, and fortunately enough I came into a police department that was welcoming and diverse,” said Barnes.
“I’ve been embraced with open arms from the chief right down to the officers who approach me on the streets,” added Bissett.
The members say the NPD is the most diverse in terms of LGBTQ officers in the area, even topping bigger cities.
But it’s not always been an easy road. Detective Clark was deployed in the Army when it had “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that prevented service members from discussing their sexual orientation.
“When you hold something in like that, you just want to be able to talk, especially if you’re so in love,” Clark said.
When it comes to connecting with the community, they say having representation makes the bond stronger.
“Being able to feel comfortable enough to talk to somebody that’s just like you makes it easier to do reporting, even if a crime is committed,” explained Clark.
“The gay community has had a rough time trusting law enforcement for a long time, things like that, so having us here to represent them and law enforcement in general I think it’s really important,” Barnes said.
Bissett says he’s even been able to use his story on the job several times.
“I’ve been to numerous calls where people felt they were being discriminated against or treated differently, but I’ve been able to explain, no this is why we have to do it this way,” Bissett recalled.
Bissett and Barnes will be representatives at Pridefest on Saturday, recruiting and interacting with the community.