BOYSTOWN — An openly gay policeman who's become a familiar face on Halsted Street as a foot patrol officer soon will be switching shifts — but community members concerned about the loss of Officer Jeff Dubinski can rest easy.
Many people from area bars and businesses were disappointed to hear that Dubinski, one of the few only openly gay and accessible officers known to neighbors, would leave his evening Halsted Street foot post in January.
Dubinski, who's been on the force for 14 years, had to move to the midnight shift. Officers pick the watch they'd prefer to be on each year, and not all officers get their pick because of seniority rules, said Adam Collins, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.
But Collins said Dubinski is "likely" to rejoin Halsted Street on midnight foot patrol.
It's good news for people on Halsted Street who worried about losing one of the few openly gay officers — though Dubinski's next assignment is not definite.
"We're certainly thrilled that members of the community have had such positive experiences with Officer Dubinski," Collins said. "We anticipate that those experiences will continue on Halsted Street."
Boystown hasn't always had a smooth relationship with local police. Last year, the city paid nearly half a million dollars in settlements after Officer Richard Fiorito was accused of falsely arresting people for driving under the influence and targeting LGBT people with anti-gay slurs. Fiorito has denied the claims.
Many business owners said they trust Town Hall Police Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris, who started last year, and the district's welcoming attitude.
Hearing about Dubinski's potential exit from Halsted was "a little disheartening," said Sean Kotwa, a partner at bars Halsted's, Replay and Elixir, who was glad to hear Dubinski may still be involved on the street.
There's historically been "a general disconnect between the gay community and the police," Kotwa said. In the past, some officers responding to fights in bars in Boystown have been dismissive, with an attitude that those fights don't compare to the ones in Wrigleyville, he said.
Steve Morris, who's worked at Nookies Tree restaurant for two years, said his own unpleasant experiences with Chicago police made Dubinski "a breath of fresh air," he said.
Dubinski has always been understanding and engaged, constantly stopping into different places to check in, several area residents and people in businesses on the street said.
"Him being a gay officer, he has a connection to his neighborhood," Kotwa said. "He always wants the best for it. It's like taking care of his home turf."
Dubinski said he is "proud to serve" on Halsted Street.