LGBT cop retires;
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday praised an out lesbian police operations commander who will retire this week, while several other LGBT members of the department were recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
Those promoted include Peter Thoshinsky, making him the first out gay man in the SFPD to reach that level.
Thoshinsky, 53, who's been with the department for 30 years, said the AIDS epidemic set the movement of gay men through the SFPD's ranks back "a full generation."
He said he wouldn't be out if it weren't for the men who came before him.
"They did all the heavy lifting," said Thoshinsky, who came out at work in 2008 or 2009. He said the men who died in the AIDS epidemic "came out of the closet and were ostracized and had to fight the fight." He said that he came out "because I felt comfortable that I'd be accepted ... I was right."
Thoshinsky said he'd start work as a lieutenant supervising the night watch at SFPD's Northern Station, which includes the Fillmore, Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, and Pacific Heights areas, July 31.
Despite his new rank, Thoshinsky said he'd continue patrolling.
"My foundation is the street cops, so I don't see myself sitting in an office too much," said Thoshinsky, whose salary will be $148,000.
As for the retirement, Lea Militello, 53, who most recently served on Police Chief Greg Suhr's command staff and was in charge of the department's Municipal Transportation Agency operations, is retiring at the end of the week, according to Una Bailey, president of the SFPD's Pride Alliance for LGBT officers. Militello, who was honored by out Supervisor Scott Wiener at the Tuesday, June 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, didn't provide comment for this story.
"I can't think of a better role model for our community than Lea Militello," Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday morning. "She has been a mentor to so many LGBT people both inside and outside SFPD, myself included. Lea would have been a superb chief of police, and although it didn't happen for her, she has helped lay the groundwork for future LGBT leadership in the department and for the eventual LGBT chief."
In 2003, Militello, then an inspector, and another police inspector were stabbed after confronting a man outside his Daly City home in connection with a pellet gun incident in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood. Both officers were seriously injured but Militello later returned to duty.
Bailey, an out lesbian, said in a recent email that 15 people have been promoted to lieutenant, including her. She said six of those people are women, and five are LGBT, which she called "phenomenal." She said it would change the face of mid-management at the department.
Besides her and Thoshinsky, Bailey said, the other out LGBTs who've been promoted are Deb Gizdich, Jennifer Jackson, and Renee Pagano. None of the others responded to emailed interview requests.
Bailey also said that Commander Sandra Tong recently retired. That leaves Denise Schmitt as the lone out LGBT member of Suhr's command staff.
In response to emailed questions, Commander Lyn Tomioka, Suhr's chief of staff, said "All of the promotees bring great energy and talent to the department and the city. They are the supervisors that shape the next generation of SFPD members."
Tomioka said that command staff members usually come from the rank of captain.
"These new promotees are gaining valuable experience that will make them more capable command staff members in the future," she said.
The SFPD is actively recruiting "in all communities, which includes but is not limited to last weekend's [LGBT] Pride events," Tomioka said.
For more information, visit http://www.sf-police.org.