VPD Constable Chris Birkett was part of a group of 2SLGBTQ+ members that founded Out On Patrol, a non-profit organization created to bring both awareness and support to 2SLGBTQ+ law enforcement members and allies. Despite his leadership in the field today, it took time for Cst. Birkett to find the personal confidence needed to be honest with his law enforcement colleagues about who he truly was.
After becoming a British Columbia Sheriff at the age of 21, Cst. Birkett was still in the closet. He had the same fear many members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community have: that being honest about who they really are might compromise their career.
“While I was attending the Sheriff Academy at the Justice Institute of BC, I was recently out of the closet only to my close friends and family,” explains Cst. Birkett. “It was still a new experience for me and I wasn’t totally comfortable with situation. I was still getting used to being out. I made a point to not talk about being a gay male while I was in the academy.”
Fortunately, when Cst. Birkett came out to his new colleagues shortly after graduating from the Sheriff’s academy, he quickly realized there was no reason to hide, as he had nothing but positive experiences when sharing his truth. He then understood that all the barriers he had built were only for himself. Everyone was very accepting.
After his time with the Sheriff’s Department, Cst. Birkett joined the VPD. He went through the Police Academy with pride and strength and was open about being a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community without worry of being labeled as “the gay guy” in class. He recognized that not everyone is as fortunate as he was with his confidence and acceptance, so he wanted to ensure that others in a similar position would be supported. And so, Out On Patrol was born; a charity with a mission to support 2SLGBTQ+ law enforcement members and build a strong, positive, inclusive connection between law enforcement and the community.
“Our society has been an idea in the making for years,” explains Cst. Birkett. “For me, the discussion started in 2017 when I attended a fundraiser for “CampOUT!” which sends 2SLGBTQ+ youth to camp. I was a Sheriff at the time and attended with a group from the VPD and RCMP. It gave us the unique opportunity to come together as 2SLGBTQ+ members of law enforcement.”
Since Out On Patrol launched, Cst. Birkett has been contacted by retired law enforcement members who wholeheartedly support the organization and wish they could have had something similar in their time, as many lived in the closet for their entire career. Cst. Birkett believes that the officers who were unable to be themselves unknowingly paved the way for Out On Patrol, and for that he is incredibly grateful.
“Retired members went more than 30 years on the job in the closet not being able to be themselves,” says Cst. Birkett. “Some of them are more than 10 years into their retirement and are joining Out On Patrol and then reaching out to us to let us know how impactful this organization is to them.”
After understanding the need for change, Cst. Birkett helped launch Out On Patrol with a group of other 2SLGBTQ+ members, who are equally dedicated to building a strong and inclusive relationship with the community. Cst. Birkett and others want to create an opportunity for law enforcement members and allies to discuss 2SLGBTQ+ issues in a safe environment and to receive support when necessary. Currently, the organization has nearly 250 members from all over the world with membership growing stronger each day.
My hope with Out On Patrol is that we can provide a safe space for law enforcement members to express themselves and also demonstrate how our departments are supportive of us being who we truly are.”
For more information please visit outonpatrol.ca
We wish to extend our outmost congratulations to Cst. Birkett as he was recently named “Rookie of the Year” by Canada’s National law enforcement magazine, Blue Line. This annual accolade recognizes and encourages a standard of excellence that exemplifies “leadership as an activity, not a position” and pride in service to the public.