PETALUMA -- Pride is soaring under new colors in Petaluma, a new effort to bring awareness to all people in their community. The Petaluma Police Department is threading their support of Pride into the community they serve.
At just 14 years old, Emily Hall is actively working to protect her neighbors by sharing a message of cultural acceptance for all. She is one voice of moving Petaluma forward, with a simple Safe Space sticker from the Petaluma Police Department letting people know this business will keep them safe.
"I am also a part of the LGBTQ community," explained Hall. "I was always so scared that would happen to me. Knowing that there will be more safe spaces for people to go if it really does happen, it makes me feel safer. The Casa Grande High School student says she is fortunate to not have been faced with adversity since she came out.
"We are not as isolated anymore and we can stand up and say, 'Hey this isn't right and we are here to help you if something bad happens,'" said Hall, who volunteers with the police department.
The stickers Emily is sharing with businesses in downtown Petaluma are part of a bigger PD Pride push. On busy Petaluma Boulevard, the Progress Pride flag is flying in front of the department headquarters.
Behind the flag and its message are two openly-gay officers, who for the first time in their careers are proudly wearing their true colors on their sleeve.
"Everyone that drives by can see that we are trying to make that change in the right direction," said Officer Morgan Rasmason.
"I never thought at such a small department that it would be something we would be able to do," said Officer Jillian Van Riper. "Making sure that everyone feels safe and whether you are queer or not, someone in the department knows what you are going through. The world and our community is rapidly evolving, it is just the perfect time."
It is the perfect time for Rasmason to finally connect her job and her identity.
"It is 2022, it is about time the town caught up and we have gotten support from them," she said.
One piece is to bridge the historically-known gap of law enforcement and the LGBTQ+ community.
"Anyone who is part of the community can be a part of the other, they are not exclusive to one another," explained Rasmason. "And I think when we launch programs like this or law enforcement participates in the Pride parade or things like that, it puts that friendly face back out there and shows that things are not how they used to be. It shows that we are you and you are us. Same with everyone in our community, not just in the LGBTQ community."
While her Pride patch sits on her uniform, Officer Rasmason's pride is simply sewn into who she is every day.
"Pride to me as a police officer is staying true to yourself, to know why you are doing, when you are doing it, everything. It is why you get up, why you put on your uniform, why you come to work," said Rasmason. "Pride in your appearance in your job, how you treat people, every little detail of who you are goes into pride and if you are not proud of yourself why are you doing the things that you are doing."
It is because of these two women's actions to embrace everyone they serve, Hall can feel safe walking down the street. She says she is not afraid of how someone will respond to her message.
With each flag, patch and sticker, it motivates the next generation of female leaders to keep moving Bay Area communities forward.
"It means a lot to see the actual change that people are bringing to the world and to see how the world is becoming," said Hall.
To learn more about the Safe Space program and request a decal, visit cityofpetaluma.org/safe-space/
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