The NYPD should stop playing games with anti-LGBTQ regimes

Ramzan Kadyrov is the mastermind behind the Chechen anti-LGBTQ purge.
Ramzan Kadyrov is the mastermind behind the Chechen anti-LGBTQ purge.

It’s not unusual for police departments to engage and consult with partners in other jurisdictions to learn how to better serve the public. Such engagements should not be controversial. 

For instance, when the NYPD first announced a pilot program in 2014 to explore using body-worn cameras, the city heard from other police departments to assess the technology, develop a program to implement the cameras, and — at least in theory — bolster accountability and trust.

But then there was the NYPD’s participation in an international policing event in a country hostile to LGBTQ rights, which included participants from other hostile and even terroristic nations, that was a step too far — and an outright insult to New York’s LGBTQ community.

But there is a fine line between exploring how the NYPD can better serve the people of New York City and jetting off to Dubai — where LGBTQ rights are not only non-existent but outright banned — to play in police games alongside security forces from some of the world’s most homophobic and terroristic regimes in order to, as one NYPD official put it, “learn from each other.”

The NYPD participated in the the United Arab Emirates’ Swat Challenge earlier this month alongside dozens of countries from around the world, including the Akhmat Kadyrov squad of Russia’s Chechnya region, which is internationally despised for terrorizing LGBTQ people and, most recently, aiding in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

Adam Kadyrov, whose father, Ramzan Kadyrov, is the chief instigator behind Chechnya’s barbaric treatment of LGBTQ people, played a leadership role at one of the event’s ceremonies when he honored his team for their victory in a competition.

In 2020, HBO ran a documentary called “Welcome to Chechnya,” which placed a spotlight on Kadyrov’s anti-LGBTQ purges and showed Chechen refugees secretly escaping persecution to gain freedom. Gay City News and other publications have reported extensively on the alarming crisis in Chechnya since at least 2017. 

There is no way the NYPD could claim ignorance about the event’s association with the Chechen group. At worst, the department turned a blind eye; at best, they failed to do their homework. 

Either way, though, we wouldn’t know because the NYPD was not very transparent about the trip. 

Gay City News emailed and called the NYPD multiple times over several days to give the department an opportunity to explain why they went on this trip or who paid for it. We were given no response. 

It is no secret that the NYPD has long had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ community. The police response that sparked the 1969 Stonewall Uprising is the most obvious example, but even now cops are barred from marching in uniform at NYC Pride and the Queer Liberation March — a clear sign of tension — and just months ago a police officer was caught using his vehicle’s loudspeaker to hurl an anti-LGBTQ slur at an innocent New Yorker. 

And while the Gay Officers’ Action League is staying out of this particular issue, the NYPD’s top brass needs to remember that there are, indeed, out LGBTQ cops on the force — and the department should question what kind of message these trips send to queer officers who serve alongside the tens of thousands of cops who patrol the five boroughs.

Whichever message it does send seems to stand in contrast to the NYPD’s 2019 apology for its action at Stonewall, according to Lyosha Gorshkov, an out gay man who fled Russia and later founded Brighton Beach Pride in Brooklyn.

“I was skeptical then — and now they’re basically doing the opposite,” he told Gay City News on Feb. 15.

No matter how you feel about the city’s police force, the department will only further erode trust in the public when its members are playing games with anti-LGBTQ regimes and failing to provide transparency. 

This year marked the third time since 2020 that the department participated in the challenge, according to the UAE Swat Challenge’s website. Let this year be the last one. NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban — who also traveled to Dubai this month — should immediately put an end to this annual excursion.