Lesbian and gay police officers promoted
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Seven out LGBT San Francisco police officers were recently promoted to sergeant.
Their new ranks mean the city's police force is likely to see more out cops in even higher positions in the coming years.
Sergeant Una Bailey, who is a lesbian and president of the San Francisco Police Department's Pride Alliance for LGBT officers, said the group is "absolutely thrilled" with the promotions, and "We look forward to more of the same happening."
"This is very important to us because it shows the department that we're very capable and talented," Bailey said.
Bailey said 20 officers overall received promotions. She said that of the seven LGBTs, three are gay men, and four identify as lesbian. She said most, if not all, of the seven are members of the alliance.
The news was announced September 15 and the promotions will take effect October 1.
The out officers receiving promotions are Melanie Alvarez, Jayme Campbell, Wendy Bear, Anthony Montoya, Maura Pengel, Peter Shields, and Ben Smith. Most didn't respond to interview requests.
Bear, 48, said, "I'm very proud to be a San Francisco police officer, and very, very proud to be promoted."
Bear has been with the SFPD since 1997. She'd previously worked on San Mateo's police force.
"It's nice to be in the supervisory, leader position," she said. She'd like to retire as a lieutenant or captain.
To her, the number of promotions, "just shows we're all really great cops," she said.
"It takes a very special person to be a cop," she said. "It doesn't matter whether you're gay, straight, Martian, black, or white."
Asked about the climate for LGBTs on the police force, Bear said there are still people within the department from the "old guard [who] are not necessarily so accepting." However, she said, "I love this department, I love this job, and to me it's not even a part of my working experience anymore." She added, "That's exactly why I came to this department. ... I can be open and proud, and I just got promoted."
Bear is currently assigned to the Ingleside Station but she said that would change as of October 1, when she expects to be deployed to an investigative unit at another station.
She estimated her salary would go from $108,000 to around $120,000.
The sergeant test, which was last offered in 2009, is administered every three years. The current list of candidates was adopted in January 2010. Promotions are offered as positions become available, and when the chief is ready to fill those positions.
For every position that's open, a total of five candidates is considered. Sexual orientation is not among the selection criteria.
Bailey said the addition of out male sergeants is "vitally important" because there aren't any out men above that rank.
"The more people we have as sergeant, the greater chance they have of taking the lieutenant test," she said, adding that the next test for that position would be in November. Those who just became sergeants won't be eligible to take that test. The next one won't be given until 2015, she said.
Bailey said the captain is typically the head of the station. Next is the lieutenant, who manages officers and sergeants at the station and manages critical incidents, among other duties.
Longtime out gay Officer Lenny Broberg was offered a promotion, but he turned it down.
Among other reasons, Broberg, who serves on the gang unit, said, "I like what I'm doing." Becoming a sergeant would have meant transferring to a station and changing his schedule, and he wouldn't have as much time for community activities such as softball and fundraisers, the well-known leatherman said.
Three lesbians are currently the highest ranking out police in the department. Chief Greg Suhr's command staff includes Assistant Chief Denise Schmitt, office of administration; Lea Militello, who heads the SFPD's Municipal Transportation Agency operations; and Sandra Tong, of the airport bureau.