MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Members of the LGBTQ+ community had a chance to have a face-to-face conversation with local law enforcement during a forum hosted by Out Memphis and The Haven Memphis Monday night.

“We need to overall build a better relationship with the police, the police need to build a better relationship with our community,” said LGBTQ+ advocate Jenna Dunn.

Memphis Police Department Chief C.J. Davis was joined by Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner and District Attorney Steve Mulroy to have an open dialogue about concerns facing the LGBTQ+ community.

“Trust is something that we’re all working on, and this is just the start. It really is, and I’m just going to stay optimistic about that,” Davis said.

One of the first topics of discussion involved an incident at the Museum of Science and History in September, where alleged members of the Proud Boys showed up to a family-friendly drag show with guns. 

“We used to be able to just ask a person, ‘Why are you here with that gun? You’re intimidating, you need to leave the premises.’ Now it’s not against the law anymore,” she said.

Chief Davis assured the community they are allies and their intent that night wasn’t to cancel the event but to keep the community safe, which posed another question- what is our local law enforcement doing to educate staff on the LGBTQ community? 

“We do have sensitivity training that our officers are going through every year now. For the first time in the last few years, we never had an LGBTQ liaison, and we do now at the sheriff’s office,” said Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner.

They also discussed anti-LGBTQ legislation which all three members of the panel agreed they are against.

“It seems very easy for me to say I would oppose this legislation. It seems clearly a solution in search of a problem. I don’t really think that it addresses anything real,” said District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

Most importantly, it was one of the first conversations to help build the trust that organizers tell us is so desperately needed between their community and community leaders. 

“It needs to be continuous. This conversation, this relationship, needs to happen over time consistently,” said Krista Wright-Thayer, Director of Outreach and Prevention with Friends For Life.

The organizers said they hope to have these conversations a few times a year to follow up on each discussion and present new issues that may occur.