During his time with the group — an all-volunteer committee that serves to connect law enforcement and the LGBT community — Boswick has participated in nearly two-dozen LGBT trainings for police cadets, worked with three police-liaison representatives and seen the succession of three police commissioners.
Boswick said he had been involved in various LGBT-related boards and committees when he heard about the liaison group in 2002.
“When I heard about them, I thought that what they were doing was important work. I was born in South Philly and grew up in Nicetown and police were well-respected when I grew up; becoming a police officer in career choice was second to becoming a priest,” he said, noting that, while he never had any negative issues with law enforcement, he was aware that some LGBT people had. “I knew there were ongoing issues, which have gotten better, and I thought I might as well get involved.”
Boswick said the group has always been comprised of about a dozen members, all from diverse backgrounds — everyone from doctors and lawyers to people with a criminal background.
Boswick served as co-chair and chair of the group three years ago. He said the committee has seen organizational growth in recent years.
“We tried to coordinate a little better and have points we could all agree on, and we came up with better guidelines and responsibilities on both ourselves and on the police.”
Boswick said the committee has been successful in helping the community to instill trust in law enforcement, and educating law enforcement on the community’s needs.
“Some of the responsibility goes to the community to participate. If we hear someone complaining about a crime and we follow up with them and they haven’t reported it, we can’t expect the police to help us with no report. We now hear from people pretty quickly so I think the community has become more receptive and less fearful. There has been a lot of progress with the police and they have become much more open to what is going on, what is needed and what needs to be heard.”
Bostwick said the committee’s LGBT-sensitivity training has also been integral in heightening awareness.
“The police department has made room in the Police Academy schedule for us to present,” he said. “Because of those presentations, the police have become more aware of issues and sensitive to things around the LGBT community. We did a couple of presentations and asked the cadets if they knew of anyone who identified as LGBT, and now almost all of their hands go up as opposed to before when that was not the case.”
The trainings have also touched on trans issues, on which Bostwick said the department has made recent progress.
“With the trans community as diverse as it is, it is sometimes a challenge to get across certain points to people who may not understand, so we would conduct role-plays and have the cadets act out different scenarios,” he said. “Last December, [LGBT Liaison] Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel drew up Directive 152, which is a curriculum on how to interact with transgender individuals. It was a collaborative effort between people on the committee, the District Attorney’s office and the police department, and that was a huge step.”
Boswick said the next step for the committee is to press for the inclusion of an LGBT-awareness curriculum in the statewide Municipal Police Officers’ Education & Training Commission.
After 12 years on the committee, Bostwick said he felt the time had come for him to step down and pass the torch to new members.
“It is always good to have fresh ideas and also have expertise and seniority and I feel very respected, but it is time to move on,” he said.
For more information on the Philadelphia LGBT Police Liaison Committee, visit www.facebook.com/lgbtpoliceliaison.