8fac13c68af614a274e4f6d3dda90fa0Police presence at major LGBTI events like Mardi Gras could be radically revised if preliminary recommendations set out at a community forum last week are adopted and brought before Parliament.

A series of draft recommendations on police conduct and training were released at a community forum at ACON’s Surry Hills offices on Thursday night, giving community members the chance to give input into the recommendations before gay advocacy groups ACON, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and the Inner City Legal Centre present their demands to the state government.

The recommendations include an end to police sniffer dogs, the establishment of an independent body to receive and investigate complaints made against police officers and a wide-ranging review of police procedure during public drugs and weapons searches.

The draft also called for increased LGBTI-awareness education for police officers during training, closer coordination between NSW Police and Mardi Gras organisers, and a reduced police presence at major LGBTI events such as Mardi Gras, both in overall numbers of officers and in the deployment of ‘heavy’ units such as riot squads and mounted police.

NSW GLRL co-convenor Justin Koonin stressed that the draft recommendations were subject to community oversight and review before being ratified for presentation to the state government and NSW Police.

“We had some very productive feedback from people who came – there were no indications that we missed anything major, but people suggested a number of ways the recommendations can be tightened and fine-tuned, and we’ll be looking to incorporate those suggestions in the final document,” Koonin said.

The draft recommendations largely stem from concerns raised at a community forum in March, where representatives from gay organisations, Mardi Gras and NSW Police faced nearly 300 people angry at police conduct over the course of the most recent Mardi Gras festival and heard concerns that the relationship between the gay community and police officers was deteriorating.

The forum also discussed moves to direct all complaints through ACON’s Anti-Violence Project, as well as an education campaign designed to inform people of their rights and obligations when dealing with police and additional support to help people make formal police complaints.

ACON, GLRL and other bodies have already begun pushing for an independent police complaints body, canvassing among members to raise support for the initiative by collecting petition signatures to present to state Parliament.

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