Meet Kate Chuilli, Berklee's New LGBTQ+ Liaison Officer
Berklee's Public Safety Department recently installed Kate Chuilli as the institution's first LGBTQ+ liaison officer, with the aim of boosting deeper collaboration and awareness with the campus's LGBTQ+ community. Chuilli, who is also a campus patrol officer and communications officer with Public Safety, proposed the new position to her department after seeing the role emerge in major cities around the country.
In the new role, Chuilli will focus on being a dedicated resource for the LGBTQ+ community as well as leading trainings and development programs for her department. She brings a wealth of experience to the role beyond her training as an officer, including being a 911 call-taker/dispatcher and a special education teacher.
Check out the following interview with Chuilli to learn more about the position and the person behind it.
Could you tell us a little about your role as Berklee’s first LGBTQ+ liaison officer?
I self-initiated the role by writing a proposal and presenting it to my administration back in the late spring. The overarching goal of the initiative is to collaborate with LGBTQ+ community members, increase awareness and cultural competency through police officer training and development, and advise investigatory staff on all cases involving LGBTQ+ persons.
Ultimately, it’s my dream to forge this role into a singular, full-time position that will be a dedicated resource for our LGBTQ+ community members. It’s important to make a role like this full-time because I do believe there’s a strong need for it. I think the LGBTQ+ community deserves the visibility and to know that we are here for them consistently; that this role isn’t performative or a political statement. We also acknowledge the checkered history between community members and law enforcement, including the horrific events at Stonewall and other less-publicized attacks on members of the queer community.
What are some of your goals and areas of focus as you look ahead to your first year on campus?
One of my first initiatives as the liaison officer occurred during Pride Month, a short time after my role was approved. I designed and implemented the department’s first-ever Pride Patch and associated fundraiser. The two primary goals of the initiative were to raise money for an LGBTQ+ charity and to be a visible source of support to the community throughout the month. Department members donned the patch on their uniforms and even in their email signatures. Patch sales garnered support from as far as Wisconsin and Canada, raising $565 for the Trevor Project. Next year, it’s my hope that a student group or club can help us direct the funds to a charity of their choosing.
Currently, I’m working on a very special training project called the LGBT Law Enforcement Liaison Academy, which is a course certified by the California Peace Officer Standards and Training Committee that focuses on the key roles and responsibilities of LGBT liaison officers in addition to a special focus on hate crimes and how to deliver cultural competency training. As my role continues to emerge and progress, I look forward to getting the word out about the position, collaborating with community members, and developing trainings in LGBTQ+ relations for my department and others. Throughout these initiatives and endeavors, I remain available to staff and students who wish to speak with me about LGBTQ+ matters both criminal and civil. I also work directly with our department investigators on any cases relative to LGBTQ+ matters.
How did this opportunity come about for you, and what appeals to you about the Berklee community?
My regularly assigned shift is the overnights, and man, if you thought some good ideas came to you in the shower, you should really try being one of the few souls awake when the city goes to sleep! In all seriousness, the idea just kind of came to me one night, and I started researching the role. A lot of what came up were big city departments with tons of funding and huge LGBTQ+ populations…places like Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco, to name a few. My wheels started turning on how I could get a role like that off the ground here at Berklee.
For several weeks I pounded away on computer keys, drawing up the first written proposal of my life. It took about another week after it was done to muster up the courage to go into my chief’s office and hand it to him—because this wasn’t the type of thing you just shoot off an email about, you know? I’ll never forget the voice in my head trying to keep me from falling out of my chair as I watched him peer through his reading glasses at my carefully bound proposal. He said that he was hopeful that we could get a program like this off the ground, and he thanked me for taking the time and initiative. He said he would take the proposal home and read it in its entirety and get back to me the next day. Sure enough, the next day he greenlit the project and the rest is history!
Early on in my time at Berklee, I told my fiancé early that one of the coolest things about this place is that all these students are the polar opposite of me; we are so different. I grew up as a jock without a single artistic or musical bone in my body. Really though, I could mess up a stick figure drawing, and I’ve had a guitar collecting dust in my house for more than five years. Since the moment I stepped on campus, it’s been awe-inspiring to be surrounded by so many talented young people. Even some of the older individuals who are here living out old dreams or reinventing themselves and starting a new chapter just truly amaze me.
Tell us a bit about what your own career background looks like.
Everything but the kitchen sink—kidding, but only sort of! Currently, I serve the Berklee Police Department as a patrol officer on the overnight shift and in my two specialty roles of LGBTQ+ liaison officer and communications officer. Prior to being an officer I worked as a 911 call-taker/dispatcher, and that experience helps me oversee our dispatch team here at Berklee in my communications officer role. I’m also a municipal police officer on a part-time basis in a small town on the North Shore where I live. Even though I’m 100 percent loyal to Berklee, I wanted to work in some capacity for a municipality so I could diversify my experience as a police officer. I also volunteer once a week as a crisis counselor for an LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization. Prior to being in public service, I was a teacher for autistic youth ages 4 to 22. I still have the distinct pleasure of working with one of my former students. I see him a few times a month, and we work on independent living activities and leisure skills. He has inspired me to start the process of developing a police-training curriculum for encounters with autistic persons. In my younger years I was also a coach, a trainer, and a security professional.
Who’s your favorite musical artist and what’s your favorite song?
My favorite band is Bastille. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re a British pop-rock band. I’m not a big concertgoer; I can literally count the ones I’ve been to on one hand. However, my partner and I have been to three Bastille concerts (and they were incredible!).
Unsurprisingly, one of my favorite songs is by them, and it’s called “A Million Pieces.” There’s actually two versions of the song: their original album version, and then my personal favorite, which was with the Chamber Orchestra of London. My second favorite song, tied with “A Million Pieces,” is Eminem’s “Stan,” but specifically the live version featuring Elton John from the 2012 Grammys. Sounds silly that this decade-old live song is one of my favorites of all time, but that performance was really powerful to me. To see those two artists come together after Em allegedly made some hateful remarks gave me a lot of hope. They both put on the performance of a lifetime, and watching them embrace at the end was the beginning of an era; it was the first time I’d seen something like that on TV.
Berklee’s Latin motto translates to mean, “To be rather than to seem.” How do you see your position supporting that work of helping our students be their authentic selves?
For me, I’ve been seeming instead of being since I can remember. I grew up during the ’90s, and I’m also a Catholic school survivor. Looking back on it, those were really tough times to be a gay kid. Just “seeming” like you were something else was often the escapism you needed to employ in order to survive mentally or physically. As I started writing my proposal for this role, I had this light bulb moment that knocked the wind out of me. I realized that I was going to be putting myself out there—my whole, authentic, queer self—and maybe even parts of my personal life. That notion was incredibly scary, and it stopped me in my tracks for a brief moment. It only took about a minute of remembering this young kid (me) who so badly needed an ally growing up to realize that the opportunity to do good in this role was worth any expense of my own personal feelings.
What is the primary message you’re hoping to convey from this conversation?
Kate the cop and Kate the human are the same person.
Anytime anyone has to ask someone for help, it’s a humbling experience. Especially nowadays, when we have the whole world at our fingertips and don’t have to ask a lot of our questions out loud. I can accomplish some things on my own, but I can accomplish so much more with the communities. Part of my role here is having an open door and an open mind, and it would be my pleasure to host any student, staff, or group for coffee, a ride along, or just a chat.