The Austin Police Department continues its mission of being progressive and all-inclusive by adopting new policies and procedures for interaction with the LGBTQ community. The changes come at the same time officers increase protection efforts around LGBTQ bars in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
Detective Eric Cleveland's beat is on the streets of Downtown Austin. It includes the bars for the gay community that he himself is a member of.
Watching what unfolded in Orlando was difficult for him as he could easily put himself in the shoes of the responding officers and the victims.
"That could've been me. That could've been my friends,” said Cleveland.
Back home he helps patrol 4th Street as the department has enacted directed patrols to help a hurting population feel safe.
"We rode 4-wheelers over to the Warehouse District. We stood out on 4th Street and just maintained a presence out there,” said Cleveland. "It felt good. It felt real good."
The patrol effort may be new but supporting the LGBTQ community is not.
"I've been here for 12 years and I haven't experienced anything negative here regarding my sexuality. I think the department fosters openness and diversity,” said Cleveland.
The newest effort involves training cadets and current officers how to properly address transgendered citizens. It starts with asking how they wish to be identified.
"It's respectful and it's professional. If you are dealing with someone and you don't know and you do it improperly than it may make them feel less like they would speak with you, less forthcoming and in our line of work you want them to be as forthcoming as possible. You don't want people to hide certain facts especially when it comes to your investigation."
The curriculum is taught by the department's first transgender officer who was in Cleveland's same cadet class.
The new transgender efforts don't stop with victims.
The department adopted new policies regarding search and seizure procedures.
Officers are instructed to not inquire about a person's anatomy should they identify as transgender, intersex or gender non-conforming. A female to male individual should be searched by a male officer. A male to female individual should be searched by a female officer. If situations don't allow for that, officers should use an opposite gender search.
If a strip search is required. Officers should ask transgender individuals whether they prefer a male or female officer.
"I think the population calls for it. Even if it's just one. I think it's crucial we treat that person with the same level of respect as we do everyone else,” said Cleveland.
Cleveland, who serves as parliamentarian for the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officer's Association, will march in the pride parade in August with Chief Art Acevedo by his side.
As Pride Week approaches, he's fielding calls from officers across the state who want to do their part to prevent further tragedy.
"I know officers from the Central Texas area and I believe as far away as Dallas have volunteered to provide security for free for the bars,” he said.
Cleveland says we all can take an active role in keeping our city safe.
"If you see something say something. If it's out of the ordinary and doesn't feel right or look right, we'll investigate it as much as we can because we don't want a repeat of Orlando,” said Cleveland.