Police LGBT liaison stepping down

After 29 years on the force, Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel is leaving the department, Philadelphia Police announced Wednesday. He plans to take a new position in January with the Stoneleigh Foundation, which helps at-risk youth avoid the criminal-justice system.

Bethel has served as the LGBT liaison since 2012. He requested the position that November after Deputy Commissioner Steven Johnson retired.

“We’ve had a couple of liaisons, but I have to admit, Kevin Bethel gets it,” said Franny Price, chair of the LGBT liaison committee. “He truly understands community, which is really important. I’m not just talking about the LGBT community, but our community as Philadelphians also. He listens to us. He makes sure officers are trained on treating people equally and using the right language.”

Price has served on the LGBT liaison committee since the early 2000s. When Bethel started, Price said she and Gloria Casarez, the late inaugural director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs, sat down with him.

“We told Kevin, ‘We don’t want to hear ‘a man in a dress,’” Price said, referring to misgendering of crimes against transgender women. “He listened.”

“In this role, and in policing in general, it’s important that we are communicating,” Bethel told PGN in 2012 when he became LGBT liaison. “We need to make sure we’re listening to the concerns to identify the issues and move quickly, as we do in all cases, to address them. That’s what makes us successful.”

Among his accomplishments, Bethel wrote Directive 152, which set guidelines for proper police interactions with transgender and gender-nonconforming members of the public.

Bethel will join Stoneleigh as the first Diana A. Millner Youth Justice Fellow, according to a news release from the foundation. He will spend the next three years expanding the foundation’s pre-arrest diversion program in the School District of Philadelphia. He will also serve as an advisor to the Philadelphia Police on juvenile issues.

“As a law-enforcement officer, it has always saddened me to see young people get in trouble with the law, especially when early intervention at critical points can lead to a more productive path,” Bethel said in the Stoneleigh release. He called it a “responsibility to provide young people with strong pathways to the future.”

Bethel did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.   

Because Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey plans to retire in January, it will be up to his successor to appoint the next LGBT liaison, said Officer Tanya Little, a police spokesperson.

She said the new mayor will appoint the next police commissioner. There is not yet a specific timeline for the appointments, Little said.


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