Gay and lesbian police officers sometimes fear the consequences of revealing their sexuality as they rise through the ranks, it has been revealed.
Some senior police officers are worried that coming out may impact on their career prospects and that homophobia still exists within some policing teams.
At the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales annual conference in September, officers from across the country will discuss encouraging the service to be more accepting of diversity, ensuring gay and lesbian officers who would like to be out can be and the benefits of this to police officers and communities, in a session titled: “Taking the uniform out of the closet.”
Mike Gallagher, the association’s lead on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) policing, said: ‘It must be emphasised that homophobia is not accepted in policing. The police service has come a long way, as has society, and that has to be acknowledged. But there is more to be done.
‘We want colleagues to feel they can be themselves at work. Sadly some police officers and staff are not confident to be out in their police forces, particularly as they rise through the ranks. It is of course a choice – and for some officers it is a conscious decision – but some fear homophobia still exists in areas of policing.
‘We need to improve the confidence of some LGBT communities in policing and having role models – senior gay and lesbian police officers being confident and open about their sexuality – would help this.’
He added: ‘We need a police service that reflects the public we serve – this will help gain trust and confidence in communities but also in fighting crime. And this will also bring a diversity of thinking to the many policing challenges the service currently faces.’
TWO FIFTHS OF GAY SUPERINTENDENTS EXPERIENCE DISCRIMINATION
A survey of senior police officers – carried out by the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales – has revealed four out of 10 lesbian or gay superintendents and chief superintendents say they have “experienced discrimination in the policing workplace” during their careers.
One respondent to the survey said: ‘Discrimination by some senior officers exists, but it is at a subtle underlying level.’
Another added: ‘As a senior leader I would love to be openly gay.’
A total of 27 of the association’s 1,300 members – who include senior operational commanders and leaders delivering local policing, specialist investigations and operations and support services within police forces – took part in the survey.
Responding to the survey’s findings, Mr Gallagher, a Met officer, added: ‘The fact that 40 per cent of our gay and lesbian members have experienced discrimination in their careers is frustrating and unacceptable.
‘It is very disappointing that we are still talking about this as an issue in 2014. We need to do better. And we can.’
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, said: ‘Here at Stonewall we know that people perform better when they can be themselves, so it’s fantastic to hear the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales proactively encouraging LGBT employees to be themselves at work while emphasising the fact that homophobia will not be accepted in policing.’