To inmates, there’s an unbroken connection between police and prison. But to the public, they’re separate worlds. It’s either Mariska Hargitay’s fiery detective on Law and Order: SVU or the hot inmates and sick prison guards of Orange is the New Black. Separate shows, separate people.
In Seattle, Police Detective Kim Bogucki has been bridging the gap with The IF Project, a writing and community outreach program she runs at a women’s prison. A new documentary of the same name from director Kathlyn Horan, set to air on Logo tonight and play at the Justice on Trial Film Festival in Los Angeles this weekend, chronicles the ways that Kim helps inmates heal and pass preventative wisdom on to the next generation. It’s a stirring portrait of strengths—of both the brave women inmates pushing for a better life and the steadfast Bogucki who walks beside them.
AfterEllen.com: The police force is mostly men. Was that something you thought about when you chose to be a cop?
Kim Bogucki: I grew up playing sports—I played basketball and soccer at Seattle University—and I always hung around guys, so it wasn’t a huge leap for me. I didn’t even notice there were more men than women on the police force, to be honest with you. It was just something I wanted to do. I actually had the police and fire applications come in the same week—I put in for both—and the police were the first ones that called, so that’s how I chose it.
I got into police work as well because I wanted to help people and I wanted to help kids. When I was in high school, we spent a week on the street with street kids, just getting to know them a little bit. It was very fascinating to me that there was a whole part of the world that I didn’t understand because of how and where I grew up. I didn’t grow up around downtown Seattle; I didn’t grow up in an affluent neighborhood either. There were these kids my age who were having to live on the street, and I wanted to figure out how to be a part of changing that. It really affected me.
AE: Is there something specific about being a female cop, being a queer cop, that brings something new to the way you do your job?
KB: Absolutely. I think women tend to communicate more with our mouths and less with our fists… I don’t want people to think guy police officers are going around beating everyone down, because that’s just not the case, but I think we tend to know how to communicate better than men do, and so we can deescalate a little bit better and a little bit quicker. Lots of times, even if we’re dealing with a male that may be combative, there’s the mother that they look up to that, hopefully, they don’t want to have to be aggressive with. So hopefully they’ve been taught not to hit women.
Being queer and one of the LGBTQ liaison officer for the Seattle Police Department—I’ve been doing that for 20 years—it’s been very interesting to see how police departments have become more inclusionary to all parts of that alphabet. And being a part of making that important change so that our department and departments around the country represent the communities that they serve. I think Seattle’s been ahead of the game on that for a long time. And we as a police department met with the community twenty years ago to deal with issues that were emerging in the community, and we still do today.
Kim BoguckiPhoto by Andrew Toth/FilmMagic
AE: How long have you been out on the force? Have you seen a change in policies and attitudes?
KB: I wasn’t out out right away. I was out in the community, but the first couple of years in the department for me it was critical for me to earn my reputation of being a good cop, and I felt like that might be something people would look at me a little bit different. And the funny part was, they all knew anyway. It was the “duh” factor. When I first got on, my sexual orientation wasn’t something that I wanted to focus on. I wanted to focus on being a good safe police officer, and that was more critical than maybe being who I was in my skin in my personal life.
Today, you walk into parties at people’s houses and people are bringing their husbands or their wives—same-sex relationships—and it’s amazing. They’re getting married, and your squad is showing up. So I really think that there’s been a change of inclusion, which it’s really great to see the progression of that. Not to say that there aren’t some people who still have issue because of their upbringing or their religious affiliation. But I think that the more that we are just who we are and not necessarily have to be out out out, but just who we are and just naturally bringing our partners to whatever—I think that it’s a little bit easier for people who have had issue or don’t think they know anybody who’s gay to actually go, “Wow, that’s just cool. They’re just like me, not some weird perversion that some people like to tell.”