OUTSIDE THE FOAM PARTY at Red Cap Garage on Saturday night, a funny group forms: 12 queer activists, two members of the mayor's office, four Portland police officers, and me. We're looking for trouble. As the music booms inside, I'm handed a giant sticker reading "Q Patrol Portland" to slap on my pink shirt. Now I'm in uniform.
This is the unglamorous "soft launch" of Portland's first foot patrol aimed specifically at protecting LGBT folks downtown, pulled together by the Q Center after a scary gay bashing sparked outrage that the city and its police aren't keeping all Portland citizens safe ["Hate Comes out of the Closet," News, June 10]. Though reports of hate crimes in the city are declining, those within the LGBT community say crimes often go unreported.
Tonight is the first night Q Center volunteers will walk Portland's Old Town streets from 10 pm to 3 am, working hand-in-hand with police to keep downtown douchebaggery to a minimum. Just after 10 pm, we split the team and head out on a loop between six gay bars. Back at the Q Patrol training earlier in the week, city Crime Prevention Coordinator Mike Boyer told us that most Portland foot patrols usually head out in pairs, but we should stick to packs of four or five.
"For the area we're patrolling and the things we might encounter, we think the buddy system isn't going to be enough," said Boyer.
At 10:15 pm we head down Stark Street to the Escape, the underage gay nightclub. A dozen kids are lined up outside, waiting for the club to open. They get quiet and wary when they see us, a bizarre posse backed by cops. But when a trio of cute tween girls reads aloud the stickers on our shirts, they freak out and rush up to shake Sergeant Pete Simpson's hand.
"I've never met a nice police officer!" shouts the first enthusiastically.
"I'm Zayna!" shouts the second.
"I love police!" shouts the third, and they've moved along before Sgt. Simpson can get a word in edgewise.
Q Patroller Belinda Carroll dives into Escape to give the bouncer and club manager a brief rundown on the new foot patrol and then it's off to Silverado, where we're caught in a flood of bachelorettes who pour out on their way to a pink stretch limo. Their screeching reaches fever pitch when they spot Sgt. Simpson and pester him to take a photo with their hot-to-trot crew. He's used to bachelorettes' drunken demands for photos (or handcuffs) after a year on Old Town duty.
We wade through the crowd outside Voodoo Doughnut—more bachelorettes—and 11 pm finds me outside CC Slaughters in the perfumed embrace of Bolivia, a fabulous queen decked out in a tight, brown velvet bodysuit. She distributes hugs to everyone on the patrol and is so excited about the new watchdogs that she lifts her microphone and booms volunteer information over CC's soundsystem.
From there we head out into the darker, quieter streets of Old Town, out around the parking lots that border the Chinese Garden. All's clear.
Midnight is approaching as we enter an almost-empty Casey's, where a friendly bouncer wants the entire backstory on the Q Patrol and takes a couple of our bright yellow cards printed with LGBT resource numbers.
The heavily pierced guys behind the counter at Spartacus are even more jazzed. The crowds of bachelorettes have thinned above Broadway, making the route back to the rendezvous quiet. The first shift is wrapped up by 12:30, thankfully incident free.