Many of our haters (especially the lazy ones) will key in on our charity’s name and baselessly try to spin it into something exclusionary. Truth is, ‘Brothers Before Others’ simply refers to the concept of police officers taking care of police officers. A healthy and cared for police officer is beneficial to the entire community, both sworn and civilian.
As a national charity, Brothers Before Others is essentially a microcosm of the law enforcement community itself: a group comprised of all sexes, races, religions and orientations focused on one common goal. Our work and our members speak for themselves.
In recognition of the Stonewall Riots which occurred in June of 1969, beginning with President Bill Clinton in 1999, this month is recognized as ‘Pride Month’. As such, BBO President and Founder Michael Burke thought this would be the perfect time to highlight one of our members and administrators, Miami Police Sergeant Tommy Reyes.
Tommy has been with the City of Miami Police Department since 2006. After working patrol, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division, assigned to the Robbery Unit. In 2014, Tommy left the Investigations Division and returned to the streets as a Neighborhood Resource Officer where he remained until being promoted to Sergeant in April of 2015.
Beginning with his time in Investigations, Tommy became involved with his police union, the Fraternal Order of Police – Walter E. Headley Lodge#20, serving two consecutive terms as Union Secretary. In January of 2019, with assistance and support from his younger brother who is also a Police Sergeant with the Miami Police Department, Tommy is now the FOP Lodge#20 Union President, with his brother serving along side of him as Vice President.
Tommy’s career and character alone warrant every ounce of respect he has garnished. However, his bravery is what separates him from the pack. Around the same time that Tommy began to get involved in union work, he was slowly ‘coming out’ as openly gay and began feeling more comfortable with himself, both personally and professionally. He readily attributes his comfort primarily with his Sergeant at that time who, herself, was a longtime openly gay and ‘out’ lesbian, as well as a nationwide social group comprised of openly gay police officers, firemen, EMS and military personnel. His coming out, along with constant pushing of the department, ultimately led to the appointing of Miami PD’s first ever LGBTQ liaison.
Earlier this week, Mike sat down with Tommy talk about his personal journey.
M – “As an openly gay police officer in a larger department like Miami, do you feel you are treated differently?”
T – Honestly, I don’t really feel like I’ve been treated differently. Most people are actually very accepting. I think there are several reasons for this, mainly that we, as a department, are so young and progressive. The vast majority of my department is under the age of 30, so we don’t suffer from an overwhelming amount of people with ‘that way’ of thinking when it comes to gays, women or other minorities.
M – “If you could change a policy or directive as it applies to the LGBTQ community, what would it be?”
T – I don’t think it would be so much a policy or directive, per se. I would like to add LGBTQ informational training for academy recruits, as well as similar training at annual in-services. It wouldn’t even have to be very extensive; maybe a few hours taught under Human Diversity. For example, the training could be used to help police officers better address the LGBTQ community. It would better prepare them for properly and respectfully interacting with transgender individuals, especially in arrest situations. A scenario-based training would arm police officers with the appropriate skills needed when interacting with the LGBTQ community in an ‘enforcement’ capacity.
M – “Having just become the President of your FOP Lodge, do you have particular changes in mind for the near future?”
T – We’re just getting started, so it’s hard to predict the future. However, I have already been working closely with our (Miami PD) Community Relations Unit to more proactively involve our entire department interacting with the LGBTQ community.
M – “What is your response to the critics of ‘Pride Month’ being integrated into departmental patches, police vehicle designs and media campaigns?”
T – Honestly, I just want to say, “Get with the times!!” Times have changed in this country. We celebrate African American History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Men’s Health Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, do I really need to continue?? LGBTQ Americans are here and deserve the same recognition that any other group deserves. It is important that we recognize it, not only for our ‘out’ LGBTQ brothers and sisters in law enforcement, but also to show the communities we serve that we support and serve them no matter who they are or who they love.
M – “The 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is mere days away. The LGBTQ community has come a long way in that time. What is your goal for the future?”
T – You’re right. Policing in our country HAS come a long way in the 50 years since the Stonewall Riots; not just policing, but also the laws that police officers enforce as it pertains to the LGBTQ community. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. One of my personal concerns is that, in some states, the laws have not caught up with the times. There are still several states in which a person can be justifiably fired for being LGBTQ.
M – “There have been some recent instances of the LGBTQ community preventing openly gay police officers from marching in parades. What message, if any, do you have for those who ask for tolerance while being unwilling to give it themselves?”
T – When I see my community pushing law enforcement away, it saddens me. Police departments around the country and around the world have worked very hard for many years trying to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community. Quite frankly, I feel like this happens most often when other groups, for lack of a better term, infiltrate the LGBTQ/Pride organizations and shift their goals in an attempt to effect how the police are viewed. Understanding and accord is a shared responsibility and can never be achieved if only one side is putting the work in.
M – “Anything you want to add or think I missed?”
T – For those officers yet to ‘come out’, take your time. If you’re not ready now, you will know when the time is right FOR YOU. Reach out to groups like the one I found. They weren’t easy to find 10 years ago when I started to come out. Today, a simple search of the internet and social media will net you tons of resources. There are other LGBTQ cops out there. Build a support system with your coworkers, friends and family. They love you and, more often than not, ALREADY KNOW! Most importantly, you should never allow yourself to EVER feel alone. You’re not. If you ever need someone to talk to or even just vent, simply reach out.
So, here’s where I break from the norm and insert my own bias. I have been ‘working’ with Tommy now inside of BBO for the past few years as Board/Administrator. We have coordinated on several events, including the delivering of a few of the portraits done by Philadelphia Police Officer/Forensic sketch artist/BBO Partner and member Jonny Castro. In fact, using his own devices, Tommy hand delivered a portrait to Hawaii in honor of Hawaii County Police Officer Bronson Kaliloa.
Despite the strides that have been made, law enforcement is still very much a ‘boys club’ and the internal environment, at times, can be unforgiving. Simply put: we’re not always the best at taking care of our own, a condition that BBO is attacking head on.
The amount of bravery and confidence it had to take for Tommy to, not only trust his coworkers to accept him, but also trust his department, is unparalleled. I am honored to be considered a friend of his and, just like our members and his coworkers, I will continue to be inspired by the work he is getting done.
This profession, same as BBO, is comprised of men and women of every religion and affiliation. When that bell rings and you are running towards danger, the LAST thing in your mind will be who the guy/girl running WITH you slept with last night. The heart to do this job and do it properly beats in the chest of all of us and we’d ALL do well to remember that.
On behalf of Mike and the members of BBO, ‘Thank You’ Tommy for including us and this group in your personal journey.
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