Hamilton County Sheriff's Office appoints LGBT liaison

CINCINNATI - This week, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office appointed a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison, joining two other city public safety agencies that have already done so.

The goal, sheriff’s officials said, is to help streamline outreach with the LGBT community and provide a point person for LGBT inmates and deputies throughout the sheriff’s office. Heather Dobbins, an 18-year sheriff’s office veteran assumed the position this week, in addition to all the other tasks she conducts on a day-to-day basis.

“We just want the LGBT community to know that we’re here, that I’m here,” Dobbins said. “If they need anything, if they want to apply for employment or if the come here as an inmate … whatever the purpose when they have contact with our department, they know that I’m here to address any needs that they may have.”

Dobbins is a certified peace officer and has served as a corrections officer for most of her career. In addition to her new role, Dobbins will continue to be Major Charmaine McGuffey’s right hand, helping oversee jail services, she said. McGuffey oversees jail and court services.

Dobbins joins Cincinnati police Officer Angela Vance and fire prevention bureau Chief Fredrick Prather as LGBT liaisons. Vance and Prather were named liaisons in October 2012.

Cities that create LGBT liaisons are often starting on the ground floor, as there are no national standards or networking organization to rely on as a resource. A prime focus for Dobbins is to collaborate with Vance and Prather on programs and best practices.

“I hope to attend different meetings and committees and build the program,” Dobbins said.

Dobbins, McGuffey along with Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil will participate in Cincinnati’s 40th annual Pride Parade scheduled for Saturday, McGuffey said. She said it will be the first time a sitting Hamilton County Sheriff and members of the command staff will participate in the parade.

“If someone identifies themselves as LGBT, we want to pay attention to that mainly for their safety so that they are not victimized in our facility,” McGuffey said. “Particularly for the men, we asked them to identify and some of them will and some won’t, but if they do, we have a specific pod that we house them and that is simply for their protection.

“Not to protect the community from them, but to protect them from our jail community.”

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