Alan Rosen, Houston’s 2019 Ally Pride Marshal, says he is an optimist. “I wake up happy in the morning with a purpose in life. I try to find the best in people, and I am a believer in second chances. Yes, I’ve had setbacks in life, but they have made me who I am,” Rosen says. He thinks people need to laugh more every day.
At 51 years of age, Rosen’s optimism is still strong. He administers one of the largest and most diverse constable precincts in the nation, and works to make his office reflect the nearly one million citizens he serves in Harris County’s Constable Precinct 1. That precinct includes Houston’s LGBTQ community, which he has long been an advocate for.
A Native Houstonian
Rosen was born in 1968 at Methodist Hospital. He has an older brother and younger sister, and his father died at the age of 38 from leukemia when Rosen was only 9. He says it was traumatic, but “I had a strong mother, and it shaped me into who I am today.” Rosen has always had a diverse group of friends, many of whom are still his closest confidantes.
His maternal grandfather owned 46 toy stores throughout Texas, operating under the names Playhouse Toys, Toy Maker, and Game Player. “I had a Lionel train set that was over the top—it took up nearly a whole room.”
The toy stores were a family affair, and at age 14 Rosen started working summers loading trucks in the warehouse before advancing through inventory, buying, and sales. “It was a good idea for me to buy, since I knew what kids my age wanted.” The business was eventually sold in the mid-1980s.
After the sale, Rosen’s mother started a beauty-supply company. “I began to meet a lot of LGBTQ [clients] through her business,” he remembers.
Growing up, Rosen attended Kolter Elementary and Fondren Middle School. He then started at Bellaire High School, but graduated from Westbury High.
Rosen played high-school sports with a passion—football, baseball, swimming, golf, and racquetball. “If there was a sport, I played it,” he says. “My mom had a lot of games to go to!”
Rosen enrolled at the University of Houston and graduated with a criminal-justice degree. “I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and felt that understanding law enforcement should be a part of that education.” In his youth, he had always had a lot of older friends who were law-enforcement officers.
In 1990, Rosen began working as a deputy in the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, in charge of maintaining peace and order in the county jail.
When Houston banker Paul Broussard was murdered in 1991 while walking back to his car from a Montrose nightclub, Rosen volunteered to patrol that area to help prevent another tragedy.
In 1992, Rosen began what would be a series of businesses that included a reverse-osmosis water-processing venture, several real-estate holdings, and a specialty chemical company. Rosen also joined the local law-enforcement reserves part-time and was commissioned by the State of Texas, serving without remuneration.
In 1995, Rosen married a girl he had known since he was 13. They now have three children—a 20-year-old daughter studying at the University of Alabama, and 17-year-old twins.
Thriving on Diversity
In 2012, Rosen’s predecessor, Precinct 1 constable Jack Abercia, retired from his position. It was a natural fit for Rosen to run for office since he had always been connected to law enforcement and politics. His father-in-law, Richard Schechter, served as the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas under President Clinton. His wife’s cousin, Lillie Schechter, currently chairs the Harris County Democratic Party.
“I ran against eight other candidates,” Rosen says. “I had a good story and business experience. I have the compassion, and I love to interact with people in different communities.” Rosen was able to communicate that message, and voters found him to be the best choice.
Rosen says his watch-party on election night was a very happy event. “All kinds of people came together from all walks of life, religious faiths, races, and sexual orientations.” In 2016, Rosen won re-election for another four years. He will run again in 2020.
Rosen oversees the nation’s second-largest constable’s office. “It’s the most diverse constable precinct in Harris County—from River Oaks mansions to the most impoverished areas, and all in between. It’s a melting pot that makes Houston so great.” The precinct runs from Bellaire in the south up to West University and River Oaks, then farther north through Spring Branch and almost up to Intercontinental Airport, over to Kashmere Gardens on the east, and including all of downtown and Midtown.
The Precinct 1 office services more than 850,00 people, and Rosen manages 563 employees. “I brought a diverse group of people into the office, and it mirrors the community it serves.” The office has jurisdiction both in Houston and in Harris County’s unincorporated areas. They handle robberies, DWI arrests, assaults, sexual assaults and serving mental-health and juvenile warrants.
Rosen’s office also provides bailiffs for Justice of the Peace courts, and is responsible for security in the downtown courthouses. Additionally, the office handles environmental investigations, animal-cruelty reports, Internet crimes against children, and human trafficking.
“I want people to know that law enforcement stands with the Houston LGBTQ community and that they have an ally in me, personally and professionally.”
The work fascinates Rosen. “I have a very compassionate side,” he says. “I like to study people and the human condition.”
Rosen especially enjoys the community-outreach part of his job. He sponsors an annual teen leadership summit for 900 at-risk juveniles. “We want to keep them from falling into the juvenile or criminal systems,” he says. The teens tell Rosen first-hand what they don’t like about law enforcement. They ask questions, and he provides straight answers. “If we don’t change the narrative with kids, they will continue disliking law enforcement and not bonding with us. We want to break down barriers.”
The office is constantly working on new programs, such as the new rape-prevention classes that teach women—and men—how to defend themselves. One such class for the LGBTQ community is now offered at the Montrose Center.
A Sea-Change in Law Enforcement
Rosen has seen an amazing evolution in Houston law enforcement agencies since he was a teenager. “The kind of stuff that could occur back then would not be even close to tolerated today. There is a whole new crop of police, across the board.” He credits better education of law-enforcement personnel with the changes. In order to work in his office, recruits must complete a minimum of 32 hours of law-enforcement classroom work.
Precinct 1 was the first to deploy body cameras on all officers. Supervisors also audit officers to see how they are relating to the community, and Rosen requires his officers to have at least two interactions with the public per hour.
Rosen has many openly LGBTQ employees, and his office was the first to have a Latino assistant chief and a female African-American lieutenant. “It’s sad that we still have to have firsts,” he says, but he is determined to make his group truly reflective of the communities it serves.
The only nightclubs Rosen allows his officers to work are the LGBTQ clubs. They are visible outside the clubs during peak hours in order to ward off potential anti-gay assaults.
During the annual Pride parade, Rosen brings out two high-water rescue vehicles that the crowds love. In addition, scores of his supporters march with the Precinct 1 group. “We have lots of fun celebrating equality.” he says. Rosen also opens his house once each year for a political fundraiser benefiting the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
The Honor of Being an Ally Marshal
Rosen says he felt very excited when he won—not so much for himself, but for the statement it will make. “I want people to know that law enforcement stands with the Houston LGBTQ community and that they have an ally in me, personally and professionally. I purposely wanted to be there at the announcement party in my uniform. Precinct 1 is determined to help change the image of local law enforcement.”
And with Rosen, what you see is what you get. “I’m exactly who I am. The community can turn to me with any problem, and I will do everything I can to solve it,” he says.
Rosen is the second law-enforcement officer to be elected a Houston Pride ally grand marshal. Jack Abercia, his predecessor as Harris County’s Precinct 1 constable, was named a Pride marshal in 1996.
This article appears in the June 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.