Law enforcement units say hiring is open to gays

November 19, 1992|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Local law enforcement agencies from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore said yesterday that they have no policies prohibiting the hiring of homosexuals.

Neither does the FBI, according to a bureau spokesperson in Washington.

On Tuesday, a 25-year-old woman filed suit against the Maryland State Police, claiming she was prevented from becoming a trooper solely because she is a lesbian.

The woman alleges in the suit that she was never told of a state police policy against hiring homosexuals until she inquired why her application was rejected.

The woman, who acknowledged her homosexuality during the lengthy application process, said she later received a letter from the police agency stating, "Homosexual or other socially unacceptable conduct will undoubtedly foment controversy and conflict with the department."

The state police yesterday continued to refuse to comment on what, if any, policy they have regarding the hiring of homosexuals.

"I can't comment on anything related to this issue of the state police and homosexuals on the advice of our counsel," said spokesman Sgt. Gregory M. Shipley.

Leonard A. Sipes, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which includes the state police and 11 other agencies, also refused to comment on departmental policy regarding hiring of homosexuals because of the pending litigation. The State Fire Marshal's Office, the Division of Correction and the Division of Parole and Probation are agencies in the public safety department.

A spot check of several local law enforcement agencies around the state -- including several in the Baltimore metropolitan area -- did not turn up one with a policy against the hiring of homosexuals. The agencies said they do not even question applicants about their sexual orientation.

If the matter happens to come up in routine background investigations, it does not disqualify an applicant from employment as an officer, they added.

"We have a policy of not discriminating against people. We don't even ask the question of sexual orientation," said Baltimore City police spokesman Sam Ringgold.

"It's not a question that comes up. If there was an acknowledgment of homosexuality, it would not speak to hiring. We concentrate on the psychological fitness of candidates, their criminal history, that type of thing," said Baltimore County police spokesman E. Jay Miller.

"Somebody's sexual preference is their own business," said Sgt. Mark Howes, adjutant to the Anne Arundel County police chief.

"We are attuned to whether they have the qualifications to be a police officer."

Elsewhere in Maryland, the Cumberland Police Department and the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office both said they do not discriminate against any applicant for any reason, including homosexuality.

"It's not something we'd look at in a background investigation and it's not a reason we'd eliminate someone from employment," said Capt. James Dick, Cumberland police chief.

Capt. James White, Prince George's County police spokesman, said, "We don't ask someone what their sexual preference is. We don't feel it's necessary. We would not rule someone out" if they were homosexual.

"The FBI does not discriminate in hiring or conditions of employment on the basis of sexual preference or orientation, nor does the FBI have a blanket policy of rejecting or disqualifying homosexual candidates for employment," said Leslie Wallace, a spokeswoman for that agency.

Susan Goering, legal director of the Maryland affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is among those representing the woman in her suit against the state police, said she knew of no similar suits against any law enforcement agencies in Maryland.

Baltimore City and Howard, Prince George's and Montgomery counties all have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, she said.

The plaintiff is claiming that her rights under the Maryland Constitution have been violated by the rejection of her application.

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