We need to talk about homophobia in the police

The consequence of ignoring hate crime cultivates a culture of endemic homophobia

Share

It's been a year since Royal Assent was granted to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, the final stage of achieving equal marriage in the UK. Whilst the Act, a result of over twenty years of campaigning efforts, may mark an end to homophobic discrimination in law, government legislation has only gone so far in improving the lived experience of the LGBT community.

Last year, 4,267 homophobic crimes were recorded by the police. And whilst hate crime as a whole dropped, the proportion of hate crimes that were homophobic increased. In other words, while the measures put in place to stop hate crime driven by racism or religion are showing some success, crime prevention strategies for homophobia are failing.

Moreover, the situation is likely worse than these statistics reveal. Recent research from the equality group Stonewall describes how more than three-quarters of victims of homophobic hate crime don’t report the incident to the police, often because they fear it wouldn’t be dealt with seriously. Such disturbing data raises a significant question about the work of the police – what has gone so wrong that our law enforcers are deterring exactly the people who they should be protecting?

An obvious problem is the composition of the Police Service itself, and the lack of LGBT representation within it. Whilst “reasonable” government estimates suggest that around 5-7% of the UK population identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, the police consistently fail to meet this figure when employing staff. A police service so overwhelmingly dominated by straight men is clearly incapable of representing the policing needs of our society, and it’s no surprise that the organisation fosters a “macho culture” concerned  more with intimidation and aggression than helping those in need.

And the situation isn’t going to improve any time soon. A recent report found that almost half of lesbian, gay and bisexual people believe they’d “face barriers” if they tried to join the police. Thanks to the current government, the situation has become even bleaker - in April of this year, the Gay Police Association was forced to close after reportedly losing its Home Office funding. The organisation was the only national body set up to deal with LGBT issues within the Police Service, and operated a helpline which responded to concerns of distressed police staff. Now, many of these calls will go unheard.

The police’s disregard for diversity and representation has clear consequences when considering that a lack of trust in the police prevents thousands of homophobic crimes from ever being reported.

And, speaking from personal experience now, it appears that these perceptions are well-founded. After receiving homophobic abuse at a UK airport, I was faced with dismissiveness, disinterest and victim-blaming from the police. Despite the incident being captured on CCTV and the attacker’s details being accessible on the flight check-in system, the police refused to investigate. I was told that it wasn’t “worth” taking witness statements because the police officer wasn’t “good with words”. Perhaps most insultingly, we were asked whether we “regularly attracted this kind of behaviour”, as if the LGBT community are to blame for the abuse they receive. Considering the indifference the police show towards homophobic incidents, it’s unsurprising that a study found 31% of gay and bisexual men deliberately alter their behaviour to avoid being “perceived as gay” in order to remain safe.

Only when I returned home did I discover that the incident was indeed a crime, and had breached sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. Our attacker could’ve faced a fine and prison sentence of up to six months. Yet, despite the ease of identifying the criminal (the airport staff even offered the individual’s details to the police), the homophobic crime we reported was met with only derisory attention.

Depressingly, this story is not unusual. Half of LGBT people who report crime are dissatisfied with how their report is handled, homophobic crime often isn’t recorded as such, and there has only ever been one conviction resulting from the type of offence I witnessed.

Of course, the problem isn’t solely down to a lack of willpower - the police are having to prioritise the crime they target due to government budget cuts. However, crimes against the LGBT community are exactly the ones that should be prioritised. Homophobic crime, whether physical or otherwise, has a palpable effect on the lives of so many and is almost certainly a contributing factor to the fact that 44% of 16-24 LGBT people have contemplated suicide. The consequence of ignoring hate crime cultivates a culture of endemic homophobia, a culture which the police officers who refuse to investigate such crimes must accept responsibility for.

In 1999, a public enquiry found that the Metropolitan Police Service was suffering from “institutional racism”. Perhaps it’s time for a national investigation to look into whether the police has a problem of institutional homophobia.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People struggle to board a train at the railway station in Budapest  

Even when refugees do make it to British soil, they are treated appallingly

Maya Goodfellow
 

Daily catch-up: immigration past and present, in Europe and in America

John Rentoul
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones