The Ithaca Police Department has established a new position of LGBTQ Liaison, which will have an officer work with Ithaca’s LGBTQ community by establishing an ongoing dialogue. Chief Nayor has appointed Officer Mary Orsaio to the role. She sat down for an interview about her new role in IPD and how she will work as a connection between Ithaca’s LGBTQ community and law enforcement.
Ithaca Times: Tell me about how the position came to be.
Mary Orsaio: One of Chief Nayor’s 2020 goals is to strengthen our relationship with the community and one specific sector he wanted to strengthen the relationship with is the LGBTQ community. I’ve always done a lot of community policing things, I was the Commons officer for two years and when he approached me and asked me if I would do this, I was more than honored and excited to take on the position
IT: What are some of the things you hope to bring and establish in this new position?
MO: Quite a few things. One thing I will be working on is education within my department. I’ve attended some trainings and I’m currently in an online course that’s being put on by a company called Coming Out From Behind the Badge about LGBTQ awareness within law enforcement. I’m looking to take that knowledge that I am learning and educate my department so we can all be further aware of this topic when it comes to this community.
IT: What are some of the particular cases you’ll be dealing with?
MO: One of the other things I’m doing is attending a lot of community meetings and speaking with community groups to hear what their concerns are. And, to be the middle man, to bring it back to my department and my superiors to see what we could improve on as far as our relations go and what they’re looking for our department to do to strengthen our relationship with the LGBTQ community. Another thing, I would be acting as an advocate. So, if someone came in to report a hate crime I could be in the room with them or I could be taking the report as the liaison, to create an environment where they are comfortable in reporting whatever’s happened to them and a whole bunch of other initiatives. We just joined a group of places in Ithaca where we have the inclusion sticker on our front door. So, if someone comes who identifies with being in an LGBTQ group, upon seeing that sticker, they know this is a safe space for them to be and they can make their report.
IT: What are some of the challenges you are expecting to deal with?
MO: I think, just from history, the LGBTQ population isn’t necessarily always comfortable with law enforcement and that goes all the way back to the 1960s where the police were put in charge of raiding gay bars. But, we have come such a long way to where police are wearing gay pride pins or marching in gay pride parades. But we still have a long way to go to have that transparency and that trust with the community, so that’s going to be a challenge but I’m up for it and I see the need for it.
IT: What are some of the city agencies you’ll be dealing with?
MO: That’s all in the beginning stages. I’ve attended some meetings with Chief Nayor for the Workforce Diversity Advisory Board. This is all so new so I’m still getting all my resources and aligning with everyone I need to be aligned with. That being said, if anyone reads this article and wants me to attend their meetings or have concerns for me, they certainly can contact me by my email. For the department, I’m also an implicit bias instructor so I have my certification in that as well as some Fair & Impartial Policing courses. I also serve on the Criminal Justice/Alternatives to Incarceration Board for the county.
IT: How does it feel to be taking on this responsibility?
MO: I’m honored to do it. It’s something I’m passionate about. I’m a part of the LGBTQ community and I’m a law enforcement officer so it means a lot to work with both groups to bring them together and work collaboratively.