One Of The Last To Accept
BY LAURA KIRITSY | APRIL 4, 2002
Boston Police Officer Javier Pagan humorously contrasts his days as a closeted police academy cadet with those of Officer Timmy Hancock, his openly gay classmate. "There's a funny story about me and Timmy," the 31-year-old Pagan told Bay Windows in an interview. "Because Timmy was openly gay in the academy. So his story is, there was two guys in the academy -- one told everyone he was gay, no one believed him. One told everyone he was straight and no one believed him. And I'm like, `I guess that's me '" he says, laughing.
Things have certainly changed for Pagan since he came out to himself, his friends, family and colleagues in 1996, a year after he joined the force: He was recently appointed by Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans to be the department's new liaison to the GLBT community. Pagan is taking over the part-time position from Lt. Patricia Eagar, who is retiring from the police department.
"I hope to just be able to work with the [gay] community and the system any way possible," says Pagan of his new responsibilities. "I know sometimes people don't like dealing with the police and I understand that. Sometimes the police have a negative connotation and people just think they're there to arrest someone and take `em out. Which is completely wrong. We do more nowadays we're more like social workers. It's something new for me, I really never had a position like this and I hope to be able to assist the community whichever way possible, whichever way they need me."
As a Community Service Officer headquartered in the South End's District D-4 station, Pagan brings seven years of experience in community-building to the position. "Basically my job at District 4 was [to] handle a lot of complaints that people don't feel like they need to call 911," he explains. "So if you're having problems with your neighbor, you'd call the office and we'd make an appointment and try to speak to your neighbor and try to see if we could get everything taken care of before anything would escalate."
Pagan also made his presence known on his Lower Roxbury beat, where he regularly attended community meetings to deal with neighborhood concerns, such as drugs, safety and the removal of abandoned cars from the area. Additionally, he worked with fellow officers to identify at-risk youth. "We have a youth service officer who we deal with so if we have kids in our sectors that are having problems we pinpoint them, like, `OK, these are the kids that are having some trouble, maybe you can get together and start doing some kinds of programs just trying to get these kids off the street.' We do a lot in that little office," says Pagan of the six officers who make up the Community Service Department.
Pagan, who was born in Puerto Rico but raised in Boston, said his interest in law enforcement stems from the fact that while growing up, he frequently found himself in the presence of police officers. No, he wasn't a juvenile delinquent, but the priest at the Catholic church he attended was also a BPD chaplain. "So there was always police officers around the church," Pagan recalls, "and then as I got older, my sister married a cop [and] my cousin became a cop." After graduating from Suffolk University with a degree in criminology in 1993, Pagan took the civil service exam then spent a year in a private sector job before getting the call to attend the police academy.
Ironically, Pagan knew he was gay long before he knew he wanted to be a police officer, but he never revealed his sexual orientation to anyone until he was 26 years old -- a year after he became an officer. His coming out was "to no one's surprise of course," he admits. "It was more like they all knew and you know, I was in denial.
"Literally I've always known that I was gay, I just really never -- I grew up in a Catholic home and I've got three older sisters, and being Hispanic, it's the big "machismo" thing," Pagan, explains of his reluctance to come out. "When I came out my family was completely like, `Who were you fooling? You're not fooling us, '" he laughs. "But it was -- in all honesty, I've had the best support from my family, my friends, even my colleagues. Like I said, I wasn't fooling anyone but myself."
Despite Hancock's joke that Pagan tried to pass himself off as heterosexual, Pagan says the reality is that during his police academy training no one ever asked about his sexual orientation and to him it wasn't an issue. "My thing was I was there to do a job, just trying to get through six months in the academy. It was never really an issue and I really never came out and said, `Hey I'm gay, ' not even to Timmy."
But Pagan credits Hancock and Norman Hill, a gay officer who previously served more than five years as the BPD's gay community liasion, for making it easier for him to finally come out. While Pagan was wrestling with his sexual identity, Hill came to speak to his academy class, he recalls. "I was just like, `Wow. Look at this guy he's 6 feet-something, big manly man, and he's gay and everyone knows and no one cares.' Then, as I got to the station I got to see him more often and then, by talking to Timmy, and there's other people in the station that are not completely openly gay, but they basically came out and extended their arms."
And now that he's out, he doesn't care what anyone thinks. "My attitude is that this is who I am, I'm comfortable with who I am, I'm happy with who I am and if you can't deal with it, that's on you," says Pagan, who is single. "I can't live your life. Like I said, I was in the closet for 26 years. I'm not going to waste any more years on trying to please somebody. And that's my whole attitude at work. Like I say, everyone's been supportive but that's what I say, if you don't pay my bills, I really don't care what you say."
But Pagan, who is a member of the Gay Officer's Action League (GOAL), a national organization of gay law enforcement officers, says he personally hasn't experienced any repercussions for being out on the job, nor is he aware of homophobia on the part of police officers when dealing with the gay community. "People's main concern is going to be, `I don't care whether you're black or white, gay or straight,' when I need help, I just want someone there. I think when people see me walking through they don't see me as a Hispanic gay man, I think they see me as a police officer. And that's all that should matter. Like I say, I don't know other people's experiences with the department and if they've had issues, and I don't know people that are gay that are working in other parts of the city that might not be so tolerating, I don't know at the moment," he says. "Like I said when I first came out people just were like, `You should have just told us.' These are guys that I had worked with, married guys with kids [who said], `Why didn't you just come out and tell us? You would have been much more happier and it's not an issue with us.' I work a lot with Hispanic officers and you know how I said earlier, that `machismo,'[but] I had nothing but support from these guys."
He also credits BPD Commissioner Evans for his support of both gay citizens and police officers. "He's done a lot for the gay community, he does a lot to make sure that everyone feels welcome and feels like it doesn't matter who you are," Pagan says. "When you need help the help will be there for you. I look up to him for that reason. The man has done a wonderful job. It's not easy managing a city like Boston, with such diversity. So I do give it up to him. He does a great job up there."
Laura Kiritsy is a staff writer at Bay Windows. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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