DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Dallas Police Department has announced a new LGBTQ+ liaison, Officer Megan Thomas.
“I’m super excited,” she told CBS 11 Friday, June 4.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming Soon?
When she was growing up in Chicago, Thomas says she never thought she’d be a police officer.
“No, absolutely not, because I was so far from it,” she said.
A theater major at Columbia College, she was active in the LGBTQ community.
“We chanted. We had marches,” she recalled.
When theater didn’t pan out as a profession, she enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a Master at Arms.
“I absolutely loved it. I fell in love with it,” she said of law enforcement.
Now at the Dallas Police Department, she’s taking over a position that allows her to be both an officer and an advocate for her community.
“What I’m about is respect. Respect for your fellow officers. Respect for your community. And that’s all really people have to do,” she said.
Thomas is the fifth person to take on the role of LGBTQ+ liaison and the third to hold it as a full time position.
One of her first goals will be rolling out the Safe Place program, an initiative that began in Seattle and uses decals to mark businesses and organizations willing to serve as temporary shelters for victims of hate crimes in need of help.
Thomas, though, aims to do more than just outreach on behalf of the department.
“The programs I want to start now are the ones to really educate the people inside the department,” she said.
Thomas, says the department’s newly appointed chief, Chief Eddie Garcia, has said he wants to make the force a safe place for everyone.READ MORE: Fort Hood Soldier Accused Of Smuggling Migrants Into Texas From Mexico
“I know how I felt in the military – ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ – having that secret you couldn’t tell anyone,” she said, recalling the policy barring openly gay and lesbian service members. Every Monday, she says, there’d be conversations with fellow sailors about the weekend. Thomas consciously tempered how much she shared.
“There’s always that fear to say too much or too little, and I don’t want my brothers or sisters in the force to feel like they can’t talk to their coworkers.”
While she feels fortunate to have a job where she’s able to fully embrace who she is, she knows many officers aren’t as lucky.
“Very much aware that some people still in the department and other departments don’t get to do that because they don’t feel safe enough to do it,” she said.
When Thomas and her wife first moved to Dallas, they were nervous.
“My wife and I were concerned coming down to Texas,” she said. “When you’re a gay person, when you’re a lesbian person, and you go to these cities, the first thing you do, and I know most of us do it, you google where you fit in and you go to that place.”
For her first assignment as a patrol officer, she asked to be stationed in Northwest Dallas, which included the Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs area and where she says she found officers working hard to cultivate the trust and respect of the local community.
As LGBTQ+ liaison, though, she wants to expand outreach beyond the city’s historically gay neighborhood.
“I’m interested to know where the LGBT community is, not only in Oak Lawn, but where they are all over the city, and how to help them,” she said.
The relationship between police in general and members of the LGBTQ community has been a difficult one to repair, following a history in the United States of harassment and enforcement of discriminatory laws.
Officer Thomas finds hopes in signs of progress.
“Obviously, you know, I’m African American. The history is not great with policing. The thing I see now is the effort and the want to be different,” she said.
Thomas will be hosting a meet and greet event Wednesday, June 9, from 6 p.m .– 7 p.m. at the Dallas Library’s Oak Lawn Branch.MORE NEWS: Man Pulled From Grapevine Lake Passes Away
Members of the public are welcome to come meet her and grab refreshments.