The Police Service has in the past been institutionally prejudiced against gay officers wanting to come out, a senior officer has argued.
Sussex Chief Constable Giles York said that historically those from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities were “singled out” and discriminated against by officers via “discriminatory enforcement”.
For example, officers targeted public lavatories and “public sex environments” to catch individuals who were trying to keep that part of their life secret.
Addressing delegates at the 61st Police Superintendents’ Association’s annual conference in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CC York also said the Police Service must adopt a different approach in order to attract people from all sections of the community to the job.
He added: “We have got to be different. There are some fantastic people out there who can make our work a lot easier and we have to become an employer of choice for those sorts of people.
“We are not balanced yet – why are there so many people who are not willing to share their sexuality with us?
“We gain trust through transparency – I think, historically, we prejudiced coming out in discriminatory enforcement behaviours.
“This is an active process and we need to do something positive. This is not a passive process or a responsibility to be delegated.”
During the ‘Taking the Uniform Out of the Closet’ session Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of equality group Stonewall, revealed that two-in-five LGBT officers are not “out” in their working environment. In addition, she said that there are “acute issues” for male officers.
She said: “There is something about how men in traditional male industries have a barrier about coming out.”
Influential role models
Norfolk Constabulary Inspector Louis Provart criticised the fact that there is no national policing lead on LGBT. He said having senior role models is key.
Insp Provart added: “There are a distinct lack of visible role models in policing. That is a significant problem. There are barriers to progression into the superintendent ranks and above.
“Culturally we should be well ahead of where we are sitting.
“We need to get our houses in order before we can have a more inclusive service in the future.”
As previously reported, a survey of superintendents and chief superintendents revealed that four-in-10 lesbian or gay senior officers claim they have experienced discrimination in the police workplace during their careers.
In addition the study revealed that officers fear the negative impact their sexuality could have on their career prospects in the future.
Delegates heard from several officers who have “come out”, including West Midlands Police Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner, who admitted that before she revealed her sexuality, it was “exhausting to constantly check yourself”.
Chief Superintendent Mike Gallagher, LGBT reserve officer for the Superintendents’ Association’s National Executive Committee, said that when he joined the service in 1987, society’s view on sexuality was significantly different.
“I am very proud of the organisation, but it can do more,” he added.