Elgin police provide extra pride on Naperville couple's wedding day
When Lindsey and Seda Lachanski saw a police officer approach while they were taking wedding family photos in Elgin, they assumed he was going to tell them to move away from the fire hydrant.
The last thing they expected was what happened next, the Naperville newlyweds said.
"He explained he was the LGBTQ liaison and he had a 'pride' cop car that we could take photos with if we wanted," Lindsey Lachanski said, speaking on the phone from Costa Rica, where the couple were honeymooning after getting married June 2 at The Haight, next to the Elgin police station.
"He was v ery nice. He offered to close the street so we could take photos."
"He even pulled out a rainbow flag," Seda Lachanski added. "It was really awesome."
The officer, Sgt. Travis Hooker, said his actions -- and the squad car decked out in rainbow colors for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month in June -- were about showing the department is serious about being inclusive of the LGBTQ community.
Hooker and the squad car were in the Buffalo Grove Pride Parade last weekend and will be in the Aurora parade today.
"I think that's a part of the community that has been underrepresented by the police in the past, and I want to try to build bridges with any part of the community that we can," said Hooker, who described himself as a "straight ally."
"Our department has goals, and one of them is building community partnerships."
Elgin's pride car was sponsored by Open Door Health Center in Illinois, whose executive director, Perry Maier, called it "a great opportunity for the police and Elgin's LGBTQ community to work together to strengthen relationships."
This is the third themed squad car in Elgin, after initiatives for breast cancer awareness in October and autism awareness in April, both sponsored by Ultra Strobe and Eby Graphics in Crystal Lake, Cmdr. Jim Bisceglie said.
The decals stay on for the month, he said.
The LGBTQ pride squad car also is a great recruitment strategy showing the department is inclusive and forward-thinking, Bisceglie said. Most of the reaction has been positive, with the occasional negative comment, he said.
"We understand that everybody has opinions. The point of it for us is, we try to be as inclusive as possible within every part of the community," he said.
"Internally, I have heard nothing but absolutely positive feedback."
Aurora police followed Elgin's example and got a pride squad car just in time for today's parade, said its LGBTQ liaison officer, Lee Catavu.
"I got to see pictures of their pride squad car and I thought it looked awesome," he said.
Inclusivity and tolerance of the LGBTQ community have grown among police over the years, said Catavu, who is gay and this year was elected Aurora police's union president.
Chicago has had an LGBTQ liaison for years, and Joliet police reached out to Catavu to establish a liaison program in 2016 in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, Catavu said.
Recently, Catavu said, he was contacted by the mayor's office in Rockford about establishing such a program.
Catavu said he's particularly proud to work in Aurora, where "any of my colleagues can respond as compassionately and be just as sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community as I am."
The Lachanskis said they endorse that wholeheartedly.
"I think a lot of LGBTQ people can feel fear around police, and just to have someone (a police officer) who saw us in our wedding gowns and to be so happy for us," Seda Lachanski said.
"It was truly a day of love and acceptance."
Lindsey Lachanski agreed. She is a former Kane County assistant state's attorney who now works as a public defender for Kendall County.
"Working in the field, I was very surprised and appreciative that someone came up and extended that much of a welcome branch, because that can potentially be rare in that type of field," she said. "It's so important that we do educate police officers of LGBTQ issues."
Ultimately, it's a human rights issue, Hooker said.
"We're not pushing a lifestyle on anybody. We don't push a political agenda," he said. "We are just supporting human rights and a populace that is part of our population."