There was no crisis within the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department that led to officer Carlos Ulloa becoming a designated LGBTQIA+ community liaison—it was just time.
“We’re a very diverse community,” says Nancy Chartrand, public information officer with KCKPD. Ulloa is part of the department’s outreach efforts and also part of a ten-member committee focused on this sometimes forgotten group, making sure they are aware of the department’s community services and also welcoming them to join the team.
“It’s a melting pot, and this has always been what the city has worked for: acceptance and inclusion,” Chartrand says.
Ulloa, who identifies as a gay male, understands the plight of the community as much as anyone. Even though Ulloa has been with the department for about three years, he came out just about a year ago. It took the encouragement of a fellow officer and friend.
“It’s such a masculine profession,” Ulloa says. “You’re just not sure how people are going to react.” But Ulloa says that he has felt nothing but support from the department and that it has been a good experience—one that he wants other people thinking about becoming police officers to know. “It should not hold you back,” Ulloa says. “If you want to be a part of the community and you want to make a difference, just because you identify as LGBTQ should not stop you from pursuing a career in law enforcement.”
Unlike the bordering city of Shawnee—where some elected officials and constituents have recently pushed back at local police efforts to recruit in the LGBTQ community, urging the city to stay out of the “culture wars”—the KCK community is not viewing its efforts as stepping into controversial territory but rather as another way to foster positive relationships with all residents. “We have other committees and service agencies, such as our Victim Services Unit, too,” says Chartrand, emphasizing that the LGBTQ committee is simply another route for KCKPD to encourage community conversations. Before becoming an officer, Ulloa dabbled with the idea of becoming a teacher and studied education, but he ultimately decided it wasn’t for him. He landed in law enforcement because, much like the classroom, he saw it as a way to make an impact. “Education has always been a huge passion of mine,” Ulloa says. As an officer, he has gravitated to the parts of policing that focus on education. He works as a training officer with new recruits and in community outreach through the committee, which meets about once a month.
“His heart is about helping people,” Chartrand says of Ulloa.
Ulloa’s work has a liaison has several layers. He is out at recruiting events letting people know there is a place for them on the force if they’re interested in a law enforcement career, working community events in an effort to build positive relationships with the LGBTQIA+ community and as a training officer working with new recruits enforcing the ideas of inclusiveness and professionalism, he says.
Since the KCK committee’s inception and push to educate, another officer has come out, Ulloa says.
Often, people have one vision of what a police officer is, and one of the primary purposes behind the committee is to show people that police officers are just as varied as the community they are serving, Ulloa says.