Surry Hills Police staff will be trained in gay and lesbian issues and start sharing more information with the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project in an effort to improve relations with the community.

From January 2007 new recruits to Surry Hills Local Area Command (LAC) will receive a full-day induction on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. All existing staff will also receive similar training throughout the year.

Everybody from the newest recruit to the commander will have a concept of gay and lesbian issues, Surry Hills Police crime manager, Detective Inspector David Egan-Lee, told Sydney Star Observer.

He said police at Surry Hills LAC had requested the new initiative, which will include an abridged version of the five-day Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) training course, following community concerns that not enough was being done, or being seen to be done by police.

In August the Star reported the GLLO program would be overhauled and coordinated by new senior program officer, Jackie Braw. At the time she said training all police at Surry Hills on gay and lesbian issues was a priority.

The move came after years of pressure from community groups, including ACON, who claimed the GLLO program no longer worked and that having five fully trained GLLOs on rotation at Surry Hills, instead of one dedicated GLLO, was inadequate.

This new initiative has been designed specifically to address some of the concerns expressed by community organisations and in the gay media and to complement the current GLLO program at Surry Hills, Braw said this week.

We may well recruit additional fully trained GLLOs on top of the five currently in place when we schedule the next five-day GLLO course next year.

She said it was a minimum standard for all police at the LAC to have some basic understanding and awareness about the community in which they work.

If the program was a success it would be rolled-out in other LACs around Sydney and NSW. Kings Cross Police had already expressed interest.

I can see an LAC-based training program working particularly well in some regional areas and we can involve local services and people in developing and delivering the training, Braw told the Star.

We can’t expect all police to have the interest or the capacity to become a GLLO -“ it’s a full-on commitment and only some police should do it. But I think we ought to expect all police, particularly in areas where there is significant gay and lesbian community, to be aware and sensitive to the issues.

Also, under a new agreement with the Surry Hills LAC, the Anti-Violence Project (AVP) will provide information from its telephone report line so police can build a better picture of homophobic abuse and violence on Oxford Street.

Confidentiality will still be assured for callers who wish to remain anonymous.

The NSW Police have had reports of only four homophobic assaults on Oxford Street between January and August this year. Anyone who goes out on the street will know this doesn’t come close to the real level of violence, AVP coordinator Carl Harris said.

This new arrangement with Surry Hills LAC will mean they will have a better picture of the real violence because they will be able to include intelligence from the AVP’s report line.

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