Tackling discrimination against gay staff in the police force

Paul
Cahill, chairman of the Gay Police Association (GPA), talks to Michael Millar
about what the police are doing to fight discrimination against gay staff.

How
important is the police have a positive attitude and value their gay staff?

The
police are a public service and we have a monopoly on the service we provide.
The public deserve a first-class response whenever they call us and the police
have to realise the public has no alternative and therefore we should behave
responsibly when providing that service.

If
we are not inclusive and do not respect our own staff, how on earth can the
public have confidence that when we roll up to help them, we are going to
respect them? Service behaviour affects service delivery.

Since
the GPA was set up in 1990, we have had a steady increase in the number of
calls from officers and from civilian police staff that say they are being
harassed, victimised or bullied.

Is
it an increase in awareness and willingness to seek help, or is it an increase
in the actual number of offences?

The
nature of these crimes has changed. As it has become gradually less acceptable
to be overtly homophobic, just as it is to be overtly racist, people who want
to carry out these acts have to be slightly more sophisticated in the way they
do it.

Also,
the difficulty is there has been a cultural shift within the service to value
diversity more, but what has happened is that police officers and members of
the public who are gay see all these new changes to the law and they feel as
though they have more rights.

If
you create a policy that says ‘we value gay staff’, it encourages gay staff to
join the police and encourages gay staff who are in the police to come out –
the trouble is, the environment in which people are working hasn’t caught up
with the policy.

It
hits them like a bolt out of the blue when suddenly they find the policies
don’t necessarily match the reality. There is a correlation between an increase
in rights and freedoms with an increase in the number of hate crimes they
suffer.

What
are the Metropolitan Police doing to affect a culture shift?

There
is no one quick fix to this. It is a process of making people value other
people even though they might be different.

The
Met have staff association forums so minority members of staff have an active
role in contributing to the policy that the organisation writes on their
behalf. Policies are now viewed through the eyes of black staff, women, gay
staff and so on. It’s a way of being more inclusive and making sure policies don’t
discriminate.

Making
homosexuality high profile – is this appropriate right across business?

Yes
it is. If you look at the problems associated with homophobia – a lot of people
suffer victimisation in the workplace because of their sexual orientation who
are not openly gay.

If
you are not openly gay and you are being homophobically bullied, you can’t
access the policies that are there to protect you.

By
redressing the balance and making minority staff more visible, it is going to
turn up the temperature for some gay staff. In the long-term, [gay people] will
benefit from the development of the organisation as it becomes more inclusive
and respects its staff – that has to be good for everybody.

The
fact you can’t quantify the number of gay staff in your organisation has led
our marginalisation.

Along
with a high profile advertising campaign and gay pride marches in uniform, the
GPA is introducing sexual orientation monitoring into the workplace. All
members of staff (officers and civilian staff), hopefully by the end of this
year, will have to identify their sexual orientation.

Three
pilot forces are running with this already and it will start with new joiners
in September. The Home Office recruit application form has already been changed
and it goes live in September. It also has an additional box for belief.

It
has a ‘prefer not to say’ option. That will be across the whole of the UK. The
second tier will be a diversity audit of all staff in October or November. The
staff will be sent an audit form and one of the sections will be
self-identification. We already do it with race, gender and disability, so it
is not a great leap in imagination to go into sexual orientation.

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