Victoria Police has added 22 new Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs) to the force after a recent four-day training course.
There are now 41 GLLOs across Victoria, almost doubling the number of police trained to be aware of GLBTI issues.
Victoria Police Gay and Lesbian Advisory Unit manager Acting Sergeant Electra Wellens said she was pleasantly surprised at the level of support from police outside the Melbourne metropolitan area after an expression of interest was sent to all police personnel to take part in training.
“We had regional areas such as Bairnsdale, St Arnaud, Bendigo and Ballarat take part,” Wellens told the Star Observer.
“I think there’s an awareness that gender and sexuality and those issues are very real, especially in same-sex attracted and gender questioning youth “It really highlights the fact that police can actually see the need within their own community.”
Wellens said she hopes the increase in GLLOs will also heighten awareness among all police of prejudice-motivated crime against the GLBTI community and improve levels of reporting.
“A GLLO’s role is not about taking statements from victims, but it’s being a conduit between educating other police and also victims and be there to assist them,” she said.
“Ideally we want any GLBTI community member to have the confidence to walk in or ring their local police station and not ask specifically for a GLLO but that they get the customer service they expect from any police member.”
Anti-Violence Project convenor Greg Adkins, who has been involved in training GLLOs, welcomed the increase.
“It’s almost overwhelming to see the number of members of Victoria Police who have stepped up,” Adkins told the Star Observer.
“It’s overwhelming in how successful the cultural change within Victoria Police has become.
“We’re now reaching a point where heterosexuals are standing beside gay and lesbian [police] and saying we’re going to improve policing for GLBTI people.”
Research shows homophobic and transphobic crime often go unreported.
Adkins said only three out of 10 people in city areas and one in 10 in country areas report a homophobic or transphobic incident.
“We could be getting much closer to 10 out of 10 than I’d ever hoped to have seen with
the police force wanting to partner with the community,” he said.
Following a review Victoria Police is set to amalgamate the Gay and Lesbian Advisory Unit into a more general community policing unit. The process has not yet taken place.
Wellens said she believes the change won’t adversely affect the relationship between police and the GLBTI community.