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  • Abbie

Navigating Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Police Force

Sexuality is an important aspect of an individual’s identity, and it can have a significant impact on how they interact with the world around them. Sexuality is the way you describe sexual, emotional and physical feelings or attractions you have towards another person. You may be attracted to people of the same gender or different gender, or you might not experience sexual attraction at all.

Society is becoming more and more accepting of people’s sexual orientations, making those who are discriminated against feel empowered to be who they truly are. Mainstream media has played a big part in this as well, through shows such as Drag Race and Queer Eye. It could even be argued that Drag Race was responsible for bringing drag queens to the forefront of popular culture with it being titled ‘the most important queer TV show in HERstory’ by the GayTimes.

Societal change is brought about by every generation and Gen Z are no different; they advocate for the acceptance of different sexualities, especially in the workplace. As society’s views begin to change, so should the views of organisations and they need to adapt and consider the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. To younger generations it is obvious that this community should have equal rights in every aspect, why is it even a discussion needed to be had? Yet policies have only recently been put into place to ensure this and more can still be done.

The police force is one of the organisations that need to be more inclusive towards the LGBTQIA+ community as it has been made public many times that the police have had an ineffective management response to internal discriminatory behaviour and a lack of decisive action against internal homophobic incidents. For example, an inquiry was launched into 500 police officers at Merseyside police in 2004 after anti-gay abuse and images were found on the computer system, and the chairman of the Merseyside Police Authority stated he was “appalled and disappointed”, yet those involved were to only have a few day’s pay docked as punishment.

A person’s sexuality should never be something that they choose to hide from others, yet many police officers do out of fear of not being accepted. Detective Chief Superintendent Clint Blackburn joined the police in 1992 when there were no visible gay role models. He says “back then policing was very macho which made it hard to be myself”, and this resulted in him hiding his sexuality from his family, friends and colleagues out of fear of rejection and ridicule. He eventually bit the bullet and came out at the age of 32 and since then has massively advanced in his career and has contributed to several support networks, introduced HIV+ SPOCS, represented the SE of England for the National LGBT+ Network, elected LGBT+ Reserve Member for the Police Superintendents’ Association, brought in a trans tool kit, and then sat as co-chair the National LGBT+ Police Network until 2022. He has never looked back but says there is still a long way to go, especially for his trans and bi colleagues.

However, it is important to note that the police force has come a long way in terms of inclusivity. The introduction of the Equality Act 2010 ensures that people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, are legally protected from discrimination in the workplace and wider society. The provisions put in place relating to work allowed claims for direct gender pay discrimination, extended protection in private clubs to sex, religion, pregnancy, and gender reassignment and required bodies to have due regard to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity.

This has then been reinforced by the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which reformed the police complaints and disciplinary systems to ensure that the public has confidence in their ability to hold the police to account and that the police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity. It also allowed an automatic pardon on deceased and living individuals convicted of certain consensual gay sexual offences which would not be offences today.

There have also been many training and awareness programmes implemented to combat prejudice and promote inclusivity. For example, the College of Policing have many that support the recruitment and promotion of underrepresented groups into the service and tackle unconscious bias.

The issue of sexuality in the police force in the UK is a complex and multifaced one and while there have been positive developments in recent years, there is still work to be done to ensure that regardless of their sexuality all officers, and those who come into contact with officers, feel welcome, supported and valued.


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