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Hundreds gather for LGBT police conference, honor their own
by Micki Leventhal

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During Pride Week several hundred law enforcement officers gathered at the Palmer House Hilton for the 14th Annual International LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals, a six-day event that involved speeches, panel discussions and workshops on subjects ranging from terrorism awareness to substance abuse and responding to persons with dementia.

They also attended sessions on transgender issues within law-enforcement agencies, same-sex pension and homoanxiety because these public servants were lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender persons—or committed and outspoken allies.

"The 14th Annual International LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals, A Bridge to Unity" was held at the Palmer House Hilton and hosted by LGPA/GOAL-Chicago. A committee of a dozen hard-working individuals, headed by conference co-chairs Jamie Richardson and Kathy Caldwell, spent untold hours over the past two years planning, organizing and managing the conference.

After the June 22 pride reception with Mayor Daley and the Chicago Advisory Council on LGBT issues and a private reception at Sidetrack, attendees got down to business.

The June 23 opening ceremony featured welcoming remarks by Chicago Police Department ( CPD ) Superintendent Jody Weis and CPD Chief and head of CAPS Tina Skahill. CPD Lieutenant Doreen Hlavaty and Illinois State Police Lieutenant Joseph M. Micci spoke about their experiences as lesbian and gay officers. Tony Zanelotti and Van King—executive producers of TV's America's Most Wanted—provided keynote remarks and humorous coming-out stories. Lee Catavu, an officer with the Aurora police department and LGPA/GOAL board member, served as emcee.

The week culminated with a gala and award ceremony June 26, and participation in the pride parade.

As Chris Dreyfus, chief inspector with the British Transport Police, said: "The conference has been fantastic. A very good turn out and people have been really engaged. There have been lots of question and good discussion in my diversity workshop. Jamie Richardson and her team have worked flat out on this; she looks absolutely shattered [ very tired ] . What they've achieved has been absolutely phenomenal, including the great social stuff in the evenings."

The finest of Chicago's finest—the city's out and proud LGBT cops—were joined in the Grand and State ballrooms of the Palmer House June 26 by fellow LGBT officers from across the country and around the globe at the 14th Annual International LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals. Members of the Lesbian Gay Police Association/Gay Officers Action League of Chicago and their colleagues in law enforcement gathered to honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions to departmental diversity training and LGBT rights; celebrate the advances; and acknowledge the work that remains to be done.

A cash bar networking reception and silent auction was followed by a sit-down steak dinner. Chicago's Artemis Singers provided entertainment during the program.

Headliner Sharon Gless—star of the film Hannah Free as well as the TV programs Cagney & Lacey and Queer As Folk—received the first annual Bridge to Unity Award. In accepting the award Gless said, "I am just an actress; you are the real thing. You are brave, you are strong and you stand for your colleagues. I will never stop fighting for you."

More than a dozen additional service recognition awards were presented. Windy City Times Publisher Tracy Baim received an award for community service and state's attorney LGBT liaison Vernita Gray received a criminal justice professional outreach award. Commander Kathleen Boehmer of the 23rd ( Boystown ) District received the organization's distinguished service award.

There were remarks by a number of the awardees and several speakers. Filmmaker Greg Baird delivered the keynote address.

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