Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Tackling homophobia within the Police

There was a very interesting programme on BBC Radio4 a couple of days ago, titled 'Out in Force' - there doesn't appear to be a link to an online recording of the programme, but there is an article about it here. (Important - see update dated 26MAR05 at end of post)

The programme used as its format a report on a voluntary course attended by police officers on how to recognise and combat homophobia within the police force and the course was led by a recently-retired gay police officer. His overall verdict is that whilst things may be improving there is still some way to go. For example, one charming scenario from the course ran as follows:

Vic [course leader Vic Codling] splits all those before him into groups. Rank plays no part. Superintendents team up with PCs and civilian administration staff with hard-bitten detectives.

Each group is given a test scenario to see how they view a range of imaginary situations involving gay officers.

One group insists that they see nothing wrong with regularly referring to fights involving gay men as "handbags at dawn" over the police radio. "It's a common expression in the force," says the group's leader.

Vic disagrees and insists such remarks can cause great offence. But he is also keen to point out that many gay and lesbian officers have much more to deal with than ill-judged words.

Another incident which struck me as specially significant, not referred to in the article, but covered in the programme, related to a discussion during the course about whether a gay female police officer should inform a female rape victim (I specify 'female' because there are also male rape victims) of the fact that she is a lesbian in case that victim might object to submitting to the evidence collection procedure necessary in such cases being conducted by a gay female officer. Almost all those on the course, supposedly a [self-selected, because the course is voluntary] group of more tolerant police officers, thought the victim should be given the choice and the discussion became quite heated. When course leader Vic Codling asked whether it would be acceptable for, for example, a BNP member who had an aversion for people from ethnic minorities to decline to be searched by a police officer from such an ethnic minority, all those present thought it would be wrong to accede to such racism, but (and this is where the heat came into the discussion) insisted that it was different from a rape victim not wanting to be dealt with by a female gay police officer and that the victim should not be obliged to accept such an officer. There was of course no suggestion that the female police officer might have behaved in any way 'inappropriately' up to that point in the interview with the victim.

The consensus seems to be that things are improving, but it seems that the Police still have some way to go (another example? - tying a gay police officer to a chair and threatening him with a baton to force him to reveal who else in the police station is gay) to rid themselves of homophobia internally, to back up the PR that gay members of the public should have confidence in the treatment they will receive from the police when reporting crimes they have been the victim of because of their homosexuality.

UPDATE: (Saturday 26MAR05 22.40 GMT) A commenter advises there is a link to the broadcast on the BBC Radio4 homepage, but it will likely disappear when the next programme is broadcast on Monday - be quick! (Try here if that doesn't work, although that will probably be superseded quickly, too.)

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