Salve Success: Caitlin Poplawski ’09 becomes Newport police department’s first LGBTQ+ liaison
Caitlin Poplawski ’09 recently became the City of Newport police department’s first official LGBTQ+ liaison. With this position, Poplawski aims to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community feels safe in the City of Newport, especially when they need help.
This job is a culmination of a dream Poplawski had for many years of being a police officer and truly helping those in need.
Choosing Salve Regina
Caitlin Poplawski, who grew up in New Britain, Connecticut, loved to go to the beach, and the location of Newport, Rhode Island, had always really stuck out to her.
Poplawski had visited the area multiple times, but she remembers one particular moment when it finally clicked for her that she wanted Newport to be her new home — and to attend Salve Regina. It happened during one of the famous St. Patrick’s Day Parades, which are hosted yearly in downtown Newport.
“I came down for the parade, and it was snowing,” explained Poplawski. “It was so beautiful, and I was like, ‘I love it here.'”
During her time at Salve Regina, Poplawski majored in criminal justice and criminology with a minor in psychology. She also played intramural basketball and was a member of the women’s softball team for all four years of her undergraduate career.
Vincent Petrarca, senior lecturer in the department of criminal justice and criminology, stands out to Poplawski as an important influence during her time at Salve Regina.
“He was so great, and he helped me with what I wanted to do with my career,” said Poplawski. “He was always an advocate for me and has been a good resource I could reach out to with any questions.”
Becoming Newport’s first LGTBQ+ liaison
Towards the end of her Salve Regina career, Poplawski knew that she really wanted to be a police officer. However, she didn’t feel quite ready for it and decided to work at a physical therapy clinic in Middletown, Rhode Island after graduation. During her four years there, police officers would frequent the office for various ailments, and Poplawski would talk to them about her Salve Regina undergraduate degree. Eventually, these officers encouraged her to go for it.
Poplawski went on to graduate from the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy and became a patrol officer. As a newbie, she worked the late watch, then moved to the early watch for a couple of years. After that, Poplawski was promoted to the accreditation office and was promoted again to being a detective in the juvenile division.
During her time in this detective position, Newport Out, an organization that aims to make Newport an inviting place for those in the LGTBQ+ community, reached out to Poplawski and asked if she wanted to be a resource at the department. Poplawski had many conversations and meetings with the community policing unit about what this position could look.
“There’s no written rule of what this can or does entail,” explained Poplawski. “I’m just trying to be a resource for whoever needs police assistance and isn’t comfortable talking to officers in a uniform.”
Poplawski is excited to make this into something that can help people. She is also aware of some reservations the LGTBQ+ community has with police officers because of difficult historical issues.
“I hope I can show that although we wear a uniform, we are all human beings,” said Poplawski. “We all want to help people, which is why we became police officers.”
In the future, Poplawski hopes to see other departments get liaisons for other marginalized communities. Community-oriented policing is at the top of Newport’s list, according to Poplawski.
“If I help even one person, that’s great,” reflected Poplawski. “And if I can help even more people be comfortable walking into the police station … without judgment, then that is the ultimate goal.”
Article written by student writer Morgan Rizzo ’23
Salve Success is a series of student success stories periodically featured on SALVEtoday. Check out the tag Salve Success for more stories.