Following the lead of other police departments in major cities, she spearheaded a documentary to encourage young people that it takes courage to be who you are and that life will get better — changing views while adding badges to the Battle Against Bullying.
“In our jobs, we don’t mix personal with the job, but we got together and decided that the rewards outweigh the risk,” said Commander Rhonda Grizzell, of Columbus police.
Grizzell took the risk in January, and contacted a fellow officer’s wife, who is a graphic design professor at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Grizzell pitched the idea to use Columbus police officers who are gay and lesbian in an anti-bullying video, targeting the LGBT community.
“I was on board right away. Bullying is a real problem in this country, and it goes beyond the LGBT community, and we think this could get bigger,” said Vicki Golden, professor of graphic design at CCAD.
Then, Grizzell and Golden coordinated interviews in April, and asked visiting instructor of communication arts Phil Garrett to direct the documentary. He was all in.
“What working on this has done is to show their side. It will humanize them in a way people aren’t used to seeing,” Garrett said.
The officers shared a variety of experiences of the bullying and pain they dealt with as they struggled with their sexuality. Among the participants is Officer Michelle Reynolds-Parra.
“I was different. Not a freak. I was stronger,” Reynolds-Parra said.
Her training Sgt. Nick Konves said a big part of his motivation to be involved in the documentary surrounded the loss of a close friend with whom he had played sports in high school. He said his friend had confided in him about his sexuality conflicts.
“It was very hard on him. It ate away at him, and in the end, he took his life,” Konves said.
The documentary was partially recorded and edited by CCAD international student Sakhile Vanga, from Botswana, who also recorded and produced a behind-the-scenes look at the documentary.
He said he grew up in a family with a transsexual sister, so he understands the confusion and pain, saying he hopes the film helps others.
“Hopefully they can find solace in seeing others who have gone through what they go through,” Vanga said.
The sentiment was shared by Grizzell, who said she hopes the commitment by those in uniform helps shatters stereotypes and gives young people facing similar struggles a “soft place to land.”
“It’s our job to protect the public and we wanted them to know we’ve been there, too, and it’s going to be OK,” she said.
The officers said they hope the project has a real impact.
The 20-minute documentary will be shown at the Canzari Center Friday night. A reception starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by the showing at 7 p.m.