Police GLLOs can be very effective if run as full-time units, a Washington DC police department spokesman told a gathering of defence, police and emergency services representatives on Saturday.

Acting Lieutenant Brett Parson, in Sydney last week as a guest of NSW Police and the Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service, said when he was responsible for Washington’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit in 2001 he wanted to do real policing and investigate crimes in and against the gay community.

I didn’t want to be the gay poster child for the Washington DC police. I wanted to be a cop’s cop, the former narcotics chief told the forum.

I said, -˜I’m not going into this unit to pass out brochures, swat gay men on their asses and say that it’s OK to be gay. We’re going to arrest people for domestic violence, for dealing drugs and doing drugs, we’re going to go after people who are doing fraudulent activity in the gay community, as well as hate crimes’.

His units, which now include specialist liaison officers for the Latino, Asian and deaf communities, assist local police during investigations -” but not replace them -” when a crime appears to be related to a niche community.

If you ask cops about community policing, most see it as touchy-feely, handing out brochures, sing Kumbaya, never seen on the street responding to a call. That’s what they planned on doing. I won’t say it was an utter failure, but quite honestly it wasn’t recognised as being successful.

Nobody could accuse the GLLU of being unsuccessful now. More than 100 officers applied to join the last time a vacancy was announced.

In the end, what I would like to see is these units not exist, Parson said. I would like to see a police department where everybody is capable of handling whatever group it is and that we treat everyone with professionalism, respect and dignity and understand their cultures.

NSW Police GLLOs don’t use the same operational model. NSW Police gay, lesbian and transgender issues spokeswoman, Donna Adney, told Sydney Star Observer she supported the NSW program which employed GLLOs as capacity builders in local area commands and specialist units.

It’s not just about the local area command knowing about their community, she said. All police responding to sexual preference prejudice, including specialist commands like homicide, need to have an understanding about the sensitivities involved and respond appropriately.

Training for officers on gay and lesbian issues was offered to all Surry Hills officers and is available for other local commands if needed.

If someone is a victim of crime because they’re gay then that person is a victim for something they have no control over. We all make decisions about where you’re going to go, but you can’t help being gay. It’s important all officers know that.

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