CATHEDRAL CITY – A retired Riverside County Assistant Sheriff said outreach to the LGBTQ community and the overall atmosphere for LGBT employees improved exponentially when Sheriff Stan Sniff was elected and is concerned the enthusiasm and commitment for outreach could wane if Lt. Chad Bianco is elected.
“Before, there was really no effort or outreach to LGBT employees or an outreach of any type of recognition or endorsement,” Raymond Gregory, who worked for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for more than 27 years, told Uken Report. “Many felt there was nowhere to turn, or they didn’t really feel that there was anybody else in the department that was LGBT. A lot of them, including myself, a lot of times felt isolated.”
Gregory, an openly gay man who is seeking a seat on the City Council in Cathedral City in November, said that has improved under Sheriff Sniff.
Andre Levesque, a spokesman for Bianco, said the political bluster is a smokescreen to divert from the real issues.
“The accusations coming from Sniff supporters are made up to somehow draw attention away from the Sheriff’s record where criminals are being released from jail early and crime rates are increasing,” Levesque told Uken Report. “These accusations have been found to be baseless lies. When Lt. Chad Bianco becomes Sheriff he will have a better working relationship with the LGBTQ community and all other communities because he is going to implement a community-oriented style of policing where deputies have a better working relationship with the communities they serve.”
Sheriff Sniff told me many times that he really thinks it’s important that the Sheriff’s Department makeup reflect the makeup of the community we serve, Gregory said.
“It’s not just the LGBT community he wanted to include but also women and racial minorities. He wants everyone to feel welcome and to have an equal opportunity to participate in all our activities.”
For Sniff, it was more than lip service. Following a series of community discussions and requests, Sniff appointed an LGBT Liaison Officer. Gregory, who was a member of Sniff’s executive team, was the first official LGBT Liaison Officer.
It was a natural fit, he said. While a captain, around 2009, Gregory said he was tasked occasionally with some of the LGBT duties, particularly to help the department with recruiting events during Palm Springs Pride and help submit a parade entry. Soon, he was the go-to for LGBT events, or the person people could go to if they had questions about how the department felt about LGBT people as a community.
“Officially, I was the highest ranked ‘out’ person in the Sheriff’s Department,” Gregory said. “I think that’s initially why they started coming to me.”
Once he was on the Executive Team in 2012, Gregory garnered the official appointment. About the same time the Human Rights Campaign was looking favorably at communities that employed an LGBT Liaison Officer. Communities were ranked accordingly.
“Sheriff Sniff came to me and said, ‘You’ve been doing this. I’ve considered you my LGBT Liaison Officer’ for years, but I’m going to go ahead and set up an official LGBT Liaison.’” That way, the county — and the cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department – could leverage that position with the Human Rights Campaign,” Gregory said.
“That’s actually when we put a link on the website and from then on and everybody knew that if there was some kind of question, training, or presentation needed, that that was the person to go to.
Gregory once worked with Lt. Chad Bianco when both were investigators in the Sheriff’s Department. Bianco, a Republican, is challenging Sniff, also a Republican, in the California General Election in November. Gregory said he and Bianco have been “cordial” with each other but have not worked together since 2002 when Gregory was promoted to Sergeant.
Where Sniff and Bianco stand on LGBT issues has surfaced in the wake of comments made last month during a public Palm Springs City Council meeting which has some of the LGBT community taking sides. Sheriff’s Captain David Kurylowicz alleged that Biancohad directed anti-LGBTQ statements toward him. Bianco has denied the allegations.
The allegations give Gregory pause.
“I don’t really want to be unfair when I really don’t know, but I would say that I’m concerned from what I’ve heard out of his campaign,” Gregory said. “Even before any of that came out I was concerned. I’ve heard some statements that basically mean I’ll follow the law by working with all minorities and not discriminating against anyone. Sheriff Sniff has been more of a true advocate, not just, well, I’ll follow the law but also I’ll celebrate and champion where it’s appropriate. I don’t hear that level of commitment of the Bianco campaign.”
Raymond repeated his concern that if Bianco wins, the Sheriff’s Department would regress to a period in which the letter of the law will be followed but there won’t be any energy put into actually assisting or helping the underrepresented groups in the Sheriff’s Department, which would include LGBT.
“I’m concerned about that because Sheriff Sniff is, of course, much more committed to making the department makeup reflect the makeup of the community,” Gregory said. “I’m not hearing that level of commitment from the Bianco campaign.”
Levesque said he would not engage in a back and forth.
Editor’s Note: Photo caption above is the Riverside County Sheriff’s Gay Pride Parade group in front of the patrol vehicle used in the parade. (Photo courtesy of Raymond Gregory.)