Iowa State University Police Department (ISUPD) is proving their dedication to cultivating change and acceptance on campus through their open arms for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Lieutenant Josh Hale, current system analyst at ISUPD, has been working with ISUPD since they were a student at Iowa State. After graduating in 2003 with a computer engineering degree, ISUPD was hiring and Hale needed a job. After working for ISUPD for 11 years, Hale came out as non-binary.
The National Center for Transgender Equality says, “People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing — but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.”
Coming out can be intimidating, but Hale says they have received nothing but acceptance and love from ISUPD since explaining their identity.
“The support I have here is outstanding; when I came out it was a lot of ‘Oh, okay,’" Hale said. "Nothing major."
Hale attributes this acceptance to ISUPD’s outreach program. ISUPD’s outreach program’s main effort is “to be an active partner in improving climate and inclusion represents our belief that our entire community should be invested in cultivating an inclusive campus,” according to their website. They have also established a formal partnership with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to increase opportunities for interacting with students in non-police-related settings.
Hale presented at the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators on ISUPD’s outreach efforts. They said that after their presentation, ISUPD had many colleges and universities contact them, interested in their outreach program.
Hale also has a great relationship with the LGBTQIA+ community across campus such as the Center.
“For outreach events and stuff like that I’ve had outstanding interactions with students,” Hale said. “If I’m working with students at the LGBTQIA+ student success center, I’ve had them reach out to me to file reports or get advice.”
Hale said many people have told them that they’re more approachable than other cops, something they consider a success because it means students trust them, which is a goal of Hale’s and ISUPD as a whole.
While Hale said their good times at ISUPD far outweigh the bad, there are still difficulties and uncomfortable situations they experience because of their gender identity.
“Where it’s more challenging is with students that either I’ve arrested or I’m interacting with that are in custody, they’re attempting to exert control in a situation in which they really don’t have any,” Hale said. “I’ve had some interesting comments of ‘oh did you lose a bet?’ Usually my response back to that is more of a form of a question: ‘Do you ask your mom if she lost a bet when she wears a dress?’”
Hale said they respond with this because it is important that people realize they’re not presenting this way as a punishment. It’s a choice — who they are. Other than snide comments, Hale said they receive interesting looks on campus when they’re wearing heels, a dress or have their nails done, but they have never been so uncomfortable that they felt something needed to be done about the remarks and looks.
“I don’t lose sleep over it,” Hale said.
Hale also commented on people’s experiences with law enforcement in a more general sense — the stigma and false expectations.
“People come to Iowa State and they only know law enforcement from home, or they’ve heard horror stories and stuff like that,” Hale said. “Many times they haven’t even interacted with a police officer before to know how they’re going to be treated. So when they come and we’re very engaged, it sometimes can take a long time for them to understand that.”
Hale said they can’t blame people for having these expectations of law enforcement because they realize law enforcement has had poor relationships with minority groups in the past. But that's part of the reason Hale joined law enforcement — to better this relationship.
Law enforcement can be intimidating, especially after poor experiences with them.
“We understand that,” Hale said. “And we’re trying to set ISUPD apart from the experiences they’ve had.”
Hale had nothing but positive remarks about their past 16 years at ISUPD and their efforts to continue to improve themselves and their community. They closed with their hopes and ISUPD’s hopes for diversity.
“We’re hiring and we’re looking for more diversity. If there’s any LGBTQIA+ people that are thinking about applying, by all means, encourage that. We want to promote change and a lot more positive interactions,” Hale said.