“I am very proud of being a New York City policeman.
And I am equally proud of being gay.”
With those words, Sergeant Charles H. Cochrane, Jr. became the first publicly gay New York City police officer. The 14-year veteran of the New York (NY) Police Department testified before the New York City Council on November 20, 1981 as the council debated whether to pass a gay rights bill banning discrimination against gays in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The bill did not pass, but Cochrane’s testimony did make an impact. His decision to come out publicly was one he struggled with for months. “Most officers told me not to do it, that it would ruin my career.” He spoke to a gay community leader who warned Cochrane that he might be labeled “The Gay Cop.” Undeterred, Cochrane decided to testify. A year later, he revealed in an interview that he had lost one close friend in the department, but that most reaction had been supportive.
In 1982, Cochrane co-founded the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL. It was one of the first organizations providing support and advocacy for LBGTQ law enforcement professionals. Cochrane retired from the NYPD five years later. In 2016, the city of New York decided to honor his advocacy and commitment to public service by renaming a street in his honor.
A look back in time at a moment in law enforcement history
For a long time, if you entered any police or sheriff’s department in the country, you would be greeted at the front desk by a sergeant presiding over a large bound book. Everyone who came into the station, every call patrolmen answered—it was all documented in that book, called a blotter. The National Law Enforcement Museum has acquired blotters from all across the United States. They are an important part of our collection—teeming with information about day-to-day law enforcement activities and touching on national events as they affected specific agencies.