Chief Constable apologises to LGBTQ+ community

Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy has apologised for the historic over-policing of Merseyside’s LGBTQ+ communities through the enforcement of legislation that was previously in place.

The force is the 18th force in the UK to recognise homophobic victimisation after the Peter Tatchell Foundation launched a campaign last year, writing to all UK police chiefs to apologise for “decades-long victimisation” of the LGBTQ+ community.

The force has been engaging with community partners, staff and its LGBTQ+ network. This evening Chief Constable Kennedy met with representatives from the LGBTQ+ community to apologise in person for the wrongs of the past, recognising that policing has moved on over the last 20 years and there is still work to be done to improve trust and confidence.

She said, “Last year, I received a letter from Peter Tatchell, as did every Chief Constable in the Country. The request from his foundation was for me to apologise on behalf of Merseyside Police, for the historic over policing of our LGBTQ+ communities, explicitly for homophobic victimisation and for the way we enforced the law in the past, particularly around the 1980s and 90s. 

“When I received the letter I gave considerable thought to his request, and immediately recognised the need to address past injustices and acknowledge the harm caused by over-zealous policing and behaviour, policies and processes that enabled homophobia to thrive at that time.

“I wanted to understand the lived experience of our LGBTQ+ communities in Merseyside, both historically and now, so I could appreciate the detrimental impact policing had on those people.

“As a result, we have undertaken extensive consultation with our communities, staff, and our LGBTQ+ network over the past 12 months in preparation for today and I am extremely grateful to those who were willing to share their traumatic experiences with us.

“I am committed to ongoing consultation and engagement to further understand the impact of that time, to ensure we continue to learn from our mistakes and build on proactive and positive work that has been undertaken by the force over many years.

“Improving the confidence of our LGBTQ+ communities is of paramount importance to me, and I am determined to further build on the trust we have gained. 

“It has been a deeply humbling experience to consider in-depth our past mistakes, particularly by an organisation I am so incredibly proud of today.

“I now have an informed understanding of the harm that has been caused over the years and I wanted to apologise on behalf of Merseyside Police, for our historic mistreatment of our LGBTQ+ communities and our homophobic application of the legislation in place at the time, which was wrongly used to proactively target members of the LGBTQ+ community, in particular gay and bisexual men.

“This ruined lives as it had a lasting negative impact on those who were targeted. As a result of the overuse of that legislation members of that community didn’t feel they could be open to be who they were, or about the people they loved, for fear they would be arrested and sent to prison.” 

Chief Constable Kennedy added, “I know I cannot change the past and it saddens me greatly to think that our historic actions have diminished trust in Merseyside Police and led to feelings of injustice that persist for some today.

“It has been really encouraging to hear from our communities and stakeholders during our consultation leading up to tonight, and seeing how far they think we have moved on. I wholeheartedly agree that policing has changed considerably in that time, but I want to ensure we do not forget our past and ensure the learning over the years galvanises our ongoing commitment and continuous improvement, to ensure we deliver the best possible service to all our LGBTQ+ communities.”

Throughout the last two decades, the force has been working both internally and externally to build trust and confidence with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Ongoing engagement and activity include: 

  • Positive Action which supports the recruitment of hundreds of police officers and staff who are currently under-represented in the force, through bespoke initiatives such as online assessment centre webinars and help with interviews to assist those applying from under-represented groups
  • Outreach Team engagement with local LGBTQ+ communities, to better understand the barriers to recruitment and encourage people to join the force. Their work has included visiting educational establishments, community events and jobs fairs and they have a 12-month rolling programme of planned outreach at LGBTQ+ events
  • Collaborative initiatives – Merseyside Police is currently engaged in numerous LGBTQ+ initiatives with its partners and Liverpool City Council. This work has included involvement in the creation of ‘Rainbow taxi ranks’ to promote night-time economy safety; the implementation of ‘Street Angels’ who support safety in the city’s Pride Quarter and the  ‘You’re Safe Here’ Initiative, supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner, which provides training and awareness in businesses, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities. The force is striving to provide varied ways to engage with the community and provide support
  • LGBT+ Action Plan which supports the force’s LGBTQ+ network to work towards organisational accreditations in support of their work
  • Diversity Equality Inclusion Volunteers who have been working on projects around LGBTQ+ inclusion
  • National LGBTQ+ Strategy Working Group – The force is represented to ensure it works closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for DEI and work towards objectives in the 2018 – 2025 NPCC Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Strategy 
  • Hate Crime Coordinators are included in investigation teams and work closely with victims of LGBTQ+ hate crime. These dedicated officers ensure support is provided at the earliest opportunity whilst the investigation is ongoing and throughout the judicial process

Chief Constable Kennedy, concluded, “We have come a long way and this could not have been achieved without the collaborative support we receive from our LGBTQ+ partners and key stakeholders within the community. 

“When I was appointed as Chief Constable three years ago, I made Inclusion and Community Engagement priorities for Merseyside Police. I am clear that in terms of the environment we offer our staff, and the service we provide to Merseyside communities, that we are truly inclusive and reflective of individual needs. More needs to be done to ensure all our communities are treated with the equity, respect and compassion they deserve.”

Image: Merseyside Police Chief Constable Serena Kennedy

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