David O’Malley, the former police chief in Laramie, Wyoming, delivered the opening remarks at Cleveland’s annual civil rights conference yesterday, where the FBI and the Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney’s Office gathered to teach some 250 local and state law enforcement officers about best practices to investigate hate crimes. You might recognize O’Malley’s name, because back in 1998 he was the detective leading the investigation into Matthew Shepard’s brutal death. When he was a big bigot.
Back in 1998, while investigating Shepard’s murder, O’Malley says, “I was fully homophobic. Mean-spirited. ‘Faggot’ came out of my mouth as easily as ‘I love you’ to my children.” How things have changed. Now O’Malley is a leading proponent of hate crimes legislation: “Why is this legislation important? Because there are places in our country where, if you’re queer, you deserve what you get. If you happen to be gay, we may not investigate as well. We may not prosecute. I’m hoping that stops.”
His speech, by all accounts, was a moving one. And though it’s been twelve years in the making, O’Malley says his personal journey from homophobe to protector (he is now a sheriff in Albany County, Wyoming) began as soon as he stepped foot on the scene. [Cleveland Plain Dealer; WEWS News]