Gay police officers still fear for their careers, poll shows

Superintendents' association says survey results are 'frustrating and unacceptable' in 2014
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The Independent Online

Many gay and lesbian police officers still fear the consequences of revealing their sexuality as they rise through the ranks, according to new research.

A survey of 1,300 senior police officers by the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales (PSAEW) found four out of 10 lesbian or gay superintendents and chief superintendents have "experienced discrimination in the policing workplace".

Respondents to the survey said homophobia still existed at "a subtle underlying level" within the force. One senior officer admitted they "would love to be openly gay" but did not feel they could be.

The PSAEW's lead on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) policing, Chief Supt Mike Gallagher of the Metropolitan Police, said the findings were "frustrating and unacceptable". "It is very disappointing that we are still talking about this as an issue in 2014," he said.

He added: "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. Sadly, some police officers and staff are not confident being out in their police forces, particularly as they rise through the ranks, and some fear homophobia still exists in areas of policing."

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Suzette Davenport

The police should reflect the public they serve and more gay and lesbian role models are needed, to help "improve the confidence of some LGBT communities in policing", Mr Gallagher said.

Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall, who will be speaking at the PSAEW's annual conference in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, tomorrow, said: "I'll be calling on superintendents to make sure they create a culture where officers feel able to come out.

"As demands on police forces increase, all staff and officers need to be able to perform to the best of their ability. Keeping secrets from your colleagues gets in the way of that performance," she added.

Ms Hunt argued LGBT people would have more confidence in the police if they "see themselves reflected in their local police forces".

The debate comes just weeks after Suzette Davenport, head of Gloucestershire Police, became the first openly lesbian chief constable during a speech at a Gay Pride event in Gloucester. "It is not tattooed on my forehead, but I don't hide it either," she said. "The police have made significant progress on these issues and we are much better than some public sector organisations, but there is still some room to improve.

"I want people to understand hate crime," she said. "I know what it feels like having been through it myself."

Lord Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, said that some officers are "concerned it will impact on their promotion prospects, and indeed I didn't come out until after I had achieved my career ambition, to be a commander".

Lord Paddick called on LGBT officers to be open about their sexuality "so that it's no longer unusual to have an openly gay senior police officer".