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Suffolk County: Law enforcement partnering with LGBT Network

David Kilmnick, LGBT Network president, speaks as Suffolk

David Kilmnick, LGBT Network president, speaks as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, second from left, listen Monday in Hauppauge. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk probation officers will receive sensitivity training to improve relations and policies with the LGBT community while county police officers will partner with gay/straight alliances in area schools to reduce bullying, officials announced Monday.

The new partnerships between Suffolk law enforcement and the LGBT Network of Long Island come as more than 30,000 residents and visitors prepare to participate in Pride on the Beach, this weekend’s LGBT pride festival and parade in Long Beach.

The county’s 244 probation officers will receive training “focused on sensitivity and inclusion for all LGBTQ people,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

The training, he said, will provide probation staff with an overview of the LGBT community’s experiences; policies and practices to reduce violence; and better data collection to improve procedures, he said.

School resource officers — members of the county police force located in Suffolk schools — also will reach out to the more than 100 gay/straight alliance organizations in county schools to provide assistance in resolving bullying and harassment issues.

“We are not going to tolerate bullying of any kind based upon who you are as a person,” Bellone said at a news conference Monday in Hauppauge. “It’s deplorable and reprehensible and not who we are as a country.”

LGBT Network president David Kilmnick said training is needed for probation officers as the “school to prison pipeline” is particularly problematic for members of the LGBT community.

A 2015 study from GLSEN, a gay rights advocacy group, found that 85 percent of LGBT youths in school face verbal harassment and 27 percent report physical harassment. LGBT students are twice as likely not to pursue higher education and 43 percent expect to drop out of high school because of harassment, the report found.

Those young people are often kicked out of their homes and unable to find housing or employment, leading toward criminal behavior to survive, Kilmnick said.

Once incarcerated, members of the LGBT community are more likely to receive mistreatment, harsh punishment or sexual victimization, according to a 2016 report from the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based progressive group.

“That’s going to change here in Suffolk County because when a kid is in school and they are being bullied they will be able to get help in real time,” Kilmnick said.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the department would begin hosting forums this fall for parents, students and members of the community focused on diversity and LGBT rights.

“It’s our responsibility to make all residents feel safe in their communities,” Hart said.

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