Editor’s Note: The following piece was originally published as a Facebook post from Kelli Hill-Lowe, whose husband was shot and gravely injured in a premeditated attack. Recently PRIDE events across the country announced that they were excluding uniformed officers from participating. This is her message to the community.
Good morning everyone. I want to take a moment this morning and first thank everyone for really jumping on board yesterday after finding out about the ruling from PrideFest with officers!! Most of you know me and its always really important for me to look at, research, and understand all sides of an issue. Im a 7 habits kind of girl ” seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I took some time last night into the early morning hours to read messages I got from officers, to watch news reports about this subject, contacted several members of other organizations that openly fight against discrimination, to read the statement put out officially by Pridefest, and to read the comments under that statement!! Oh those comments….
That being said I am now officially saying that on behalf of the families and Spouses of St. Louis Law Enforcement, we cannot allow the decision made to stand!!
Now let me be clear!! I read the statement from Pridefest saying that law enforcement officers and their families are welcome to walk and attend the parade but not in uniform! I understand and have a respect for them looking at history and sighting how painful and traumatic it is for those in the LGBTQ community to see uniformed officers. No one understands that more than an African American woman living in our country today. To my Blue Family we have to first understand their logic and struggle and have empathy.
That being said, how will we ever move forward and begin to break the chains of that trauma and pain if we don”t stand together and send a strong signal that significant strides have been made since then? No, it’s not perfect by a long shot. I will be the first to admit there is still lots of work to be done by all in the law enforcement community to better relate to marginalized community members and understand how policing reflects those relationships in the community and in organizations.
A great many officers in St. Louis and nationwide are LGBTQ. They want to wear their uniforms, not to bring anyone pain but to show that they are day by day pushing to break the stigma! Yesterday after talking to many of them, they were so hurt that an organization that should be standing for them let them down and further made them feel marginalized. They face significant challenges still at work because of their sexual orientation. I will not sugarcoat nor hide that! Not me! Law enforcement has made significant strides to improve diversity and inclusion on all levels. We should be celebrating those pioneers that are seeking to break down those barriers and stereotypes by being law enforcement and LGBTQ.
Lastly, this “us against them” precedent that seems to be being set by leaders in the City of St. Louis in government concerns me as the spouse of an officer who has already been cruelly targeted and ambushed. I have always heard attitude reflects leadership. The language that is used on a day to day basis by our mayor. Alderman seems to purposely degrade the arm of public safety. Leaders are quick to cut budgets and speak ill of law enforcement. To blame them for the high crime rate and to publicy scold them at every turn. Our officers work really hard with low pay, low benefits, horrible resources, and mostly low morale. Still, they report to work daily! Yes, there are some bad apples. Yes, there are those who should not be wearing a badge. That still does not justify making sweeping statements about the majority of good public servants we have! It’s setting up an environment that says its ok to be cruel to officers. It’s a risk to officer safety. It dehumanizes them!
As families of officers we are already asked to endure so much. We should not and will not continue to sit still for this poor work environment! It is so important, especially in the city of St Louis where this divide between communities and officers is so fragile, to be more responsible and to lead in efforts to mend, bridge, and repair that which is broken!
I’m asking for all spouses, families, and officers to stand with me as I take continued steps to address this situation. Here is what will be printed on the t-shirt below. Families and supporters: do not get distracted and nasty by making statements about officers abandoning the PrideFest detail or making this political! This is not that! This is about being unified and truly making strides to bring people together!
Thanks everyone. Please don’t be hateful and divisive on this post! Let’s stand for ourselves, our officers, and our communities and show them how UNITY looks!