Cpl. Tracey Knight, 3rd person to hold position since Rainbow Lounge raid, says she’s in it for the long haul and wants to focus on gay youth
LOGAN CARVER | Contributing Writer
FORT WORTH — Cpl. Tracey Knight knows what it’s like to be openly gay in Fort Worth — and what it’s like to patrol the streets as one of the city’s police officers.
In her new role as the department’s LGBT liaison officer, she hopes to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and a police department committed to improving a somewhat tenuous relationship following the 2009 raid of the Rainbow Lounge.
“I think it’s no secret that we’ve had some issues in the past here at Fort Worth,” Knight said. She has been out for roughly 10 years and wants to help dispel what she says is a misconception that the department is anti-gay.
“Just with the [LGBT liaison] position alone and with the chief’s stance, I really think people are understanding what we’re like here,” she said.
Knight has been in the position since Tarrant County Gay Pride Weekend and is the department’s third LGBT liaison officer in as many years.
She takes the reins from Kellie Whitehead, who served for a year after Sara Straten spent two years as liaison.
Fort Worth police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said Knight played an integral role in establishing a multiculturalism and diversity recommendation committee about a year ago, and her work with that committee served as a natural segue into the liaison position.
Knight brings to the table excellent leadership and communication skills and is well respected within the department, Halstead said. She will be a crucial asset in what he says is the most important position to continue to improve the relationship between the gay community and the department, post-Rainbow.
“We’re looking for this to be more of an investment,” Halstead said. “We know that we have learned a lot in the last three years; what we want with this one is more of a long-term position.”
Halstead said the liaison turnover wasn’t intentional, but was expected as the program got off the ground.
Knight said she’s in it for the long haul.
“I’m going to be here as long as I can,” she said. “Even if I promote, I’m going to remain a part of the liaison position in some way, form or fashion.”
Jon Nelson, president of Fairness Fort Worth — the organization largely responsible for the establishment of a liaison officer — said the group has had a great working relationship with the previous two liaisons and that he looked forward to working with Knight.
“I’ve met Tracey, and I’m very confident that that strong relationship will continue and perhaps get even stronger,” Nelson said.
Knight, 41, is a nearly 18-year veteran of the department who spent most of her career in special operations assigned to narcotics and gang units.
She said she is excited about the LGBT liaison position because it allows her to have a closer relationship with both the gay community and the community at large.
“This is a bit of a cliché, but it is true: The whole reason I became a police officer is to help people,” Knight said. “I really feel as if it’s a calling.”
Knight graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with degrees in criminal justice and sociology and also earned her master’s in public administration from UTA.
She worked as a patrol officer for more than a decade before taking the test to promote to detective.
Knight said her new job will still involve long hours and lots of callouts, but the nature of those calls will be different. Gone are the days of undercover work and chasing drug dealers in foot pursuits.
“I did that. I enjoyed it. I think I made a difference doing that, but now there’s younger officers that are doing that position now,” she said, affably adding that she’s not old by any stretch of the imagination.
Knight is one of the department’s public information officers, charged with handling media relations duties on a rotating basis. She is also a hostage negotiator.
She said her negotiation skills help her relate to people and could aid in her new assignment. Most negotiations involve people who need an understanding, empathetic person to talk them down, she said.
The message she conveys in those instances can be applicable to despondent LGBT youth, Knight said.
“Things do get better,” she said. “I’m not saying they’re going to be perfect, but it gets better than it is right now.”
LGBT youth will be Knight’s primary focus, she said. Her goal is to open the lines of communication between young people and the police department and also to show them, “Hey, I’m a police officer and I’m gay.”
One of the things Knight is most enthusiastic about is a new department-sponsored program that provides a safe place for gay youth and allies to talk, learn marketable life skills and just hang out.
When she’s not in uniform, Knight enjoys spending time with her partner of 10 years and their 4-year-old daughter. Her home life revolves around going to the park, swim lessons and dance classes.
“That’s life now, and it’s fantastic,” she said.
LGBT liaison Cpl. Tracey Knight can be reached at Tracey.Knight@FortWorthTexas.gov or 817-392-4203.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 2, 2012.