As a gay male police officer, Michael Crumrine has had to fight stereotypes and myths, especially when it came down to a custody battle for his daughter. As a sexual crimes investigator for more than four years and through his participation with End Violence Against Women International, Crumrine is a champion for victims who often go unheard and are disbelieved. In addition, he’s a founding member of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officer’s Association (LGPOA), where he initiated the idea to make an “It Gets Better” video that premiered last September. He strives to be a role model for the LGBT community.
“Being gay doesn’t define you and it doesn’t limit you,” he said. “When I was younger, I thought being gay was going to limit what I was going to do in life. Being gay meant I couldn’t have a family. Being gay meant I couldn’t have a successful career in public service or be a policeman. That’s all hogwash.”
A 6’1″ burly man, Crumrine wore his kilt with pride when we met at a local Austin café. He had just finished performing at the State Police Officer Memorial in which he played the bagpipes with the Austin Police Pipe and Drum Corps. He’s one of the seven pipers in the organization and is also a member of a statewide pipe band, Emergency Services Pipe and Drum Association, which honors firemen, police officers, paramedics and other public service workers who have died in the line of duty. “It’s truly an honor to perform for families of the fallen officers,” he said.
A San Antonio native, Crumrine was the youngest of eight growing up in a conservative Catholic household. He realized he was gay while in high school when he developed a crush on a friend. “The media at the time and the Roman Catholic Church truly colored who I was in my mind. At that point in my life to say that I was gay was to say I was broken, that I wasn’t right.” Coming to terms with his sexuality was a constant struggle throughout his life. It was enough to keep him in the closet for years.
Coming from a family with a strong public service background, Crumrine expected to have a career serving his community. He was a volunteer firefighter and worked in construction before deciding to become a police officer. Following graduation from the academy in 1987, he became one of the five police officers at a small town outside San Antonio.
In the beginning of his career, he met a woman and fell in love. “I thought the love of a good woman would fix everything,” he said. They dated for five years, married in 1990, and had a daughter a couple of years later. But their marriage quickly fell apart. After divorcing in 1995, they became entrenched in a cruel custody battle. Crumrine’s former wife went to the press alleging he was living an “unhealthy lifestyle” as a gay man and was an unfit parent. The bad publicity outed him to friends and family who didn’t already know. “It was not a cool experience,” he said.
To start anew and move forward in his career, Crumrine moved to Austin in 2001. He has worked in various departments and units within APD, including being a district representative, working with the city housing authority, being a hostage negotiator, and working as part of the crowd management team. Most recently he was assigned to the sex offenders unit as a result of previously working with one of the nation’s best sexual assault investigations team.
“Many officers don’t like working with sexual assault cases because the crimes are not black and white but are gray, which can be difficult to convict,” Crumrine said about the widely unreported crime. He can empathize with the victims of sexual assault because the public tends to have preconceived bias against victims, similar to the bias some people have against the LGBT community. “I commend victims on their courage because it takes an incredible amount of it to step forward.”
With his daughter Athena failing her classes as a freshman in high school in 2008, Crumrine fought for her custody, and ultimately she moved to Austin to live with her father and his partner of 10 years, Lee Davila. Athena, now 20 and a history major at Texas A&M, said her dad is an “absolutely great parent.” When she first moved in, he encouraged her to improve her grades, become involved in school activities and make friends. “My dad pushed me so much. He’s made me a better person. And he’s always there if I need a laugh or a shoulder to cry on,” she said.
Crumrine is a family man at heart. What keeps him grounded is the love he has for his daughter and his partner. “It’s funny how people who work in the public service field have this overwhelming need to help people that also transcends into their personal life,” Davila said. “He’s probably the most caring, patient, loving and understanding person you will ever meet.”