EACH year during the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival, the city lights up with the colours of the rainbow.

NSW Police Force has played a pivotal safety role in the parade throughout the years but it’s our marching contingent that makes me most proud. Since 1996, NSW Police officers have added a splash of blue to demonstrate support and commitment to the lesbian, gay bisexual, trans* and intersex communities.

I am extremely proud the force recognises the importance of marching in the parade, signifying our strong support and solidarity with the LGBTI community. As an organisation, it provides us an opportunity to recognise and respect our own workforce diversity through acceptance of everyone’s unique attributes.

Our theme for the 2014 festival is ‘We are many shades of blue’, and more than 50 officers from across NSW, including the Police Band, will take their place in the parade. These officers are predominantly gay and lesbian liaison officers (GLLOs), who play a significant role in building our capacity to better respond to a range of issues affecting LGBTI communities.

Tony Crandell NSW PoliceGLLOs are especially committed to drawing mutual understanding both within and outside the NSW Police force and they are considered our experts on same-sex domestic violence issues, beats, bias crimes against LGBTI communities, transgender and intersex  issues.

Policing the parade route and surrounding areas to ensure a safe event is our number one priority. We have been working closely with event organisers to make sure everyone can have a great night.

This year, NSW Police launched Operation Tacoma, a high-visibility policing strategy to provide environments in which the community can celebrate all 2014 Mardi Gras Festival events in safety.

We are working under the direction of Operation Commander, Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke, who – as Commander of the Major Events and Incidents Group – brings a wealth of experience in policing the biggest events within this state and across Australia.

Operation Tacoma will focus on crowd safety, particularly as large crowds arrive and leave the area; providing the safest possible experience on public transport, traffic management and minimising the risk of alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour.

The number of police involved in the operation was determined in conjunction with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras organisers pursuant to the recently-endorsed Memorandum of Understanding, which has been designed to ensure consultation and open communication for provision of safe and comfortable event environments.

You’ll see a variety of police officers out on Parade night, including representatives from local general duties and GLLOs, the mounted unit, dog unit, traffic and highway patrol, police transport command, public order and riot squad and operational support group.

All these officers will be briefed on expectations by senior police and are educated by Mardi Gras organisers on the history and cultural significance of the festival before deployments on the night.

As the Commander of Surry Hills Local Area Command, I will be working as the Forward Commander on the ground along the parade route utilising local police who are accustomed to the culture and uniqueness of LGBTI communities.

We know and understand the community, its culture and more importantly, the significance and symbolism of Mardi Gras. This strategy was developed at joint briefings with the Chief Executive Officer of Mardi Gras, Mr Michael Rolik, in an effort to minimise misunderstanding between police and community members.

These joint briefings have been invaluable in developing strategies to seamlessly incorporate policing and security operations into the event brief. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world – all eyes will be on Sydney – we want them to see the city at its best.

Once again, one of our officers will be part of the decency inspection team. We will work side-by-side with event organisers to check each float to make sure everything remains in the true spirit of the festival without being offensive.

We are often asked what’s okay and what’s not, which is sometimes difficult to describe – when you see something offensive, you just know. That said, full-frontal nudity is never okay on a public street, neither are hurtful or hate-filled banners.

Remember, there will be children watching along the parade route – this is their family too – so if you wouldn’t want your child to see it, re-think it.

The force has come a long way since the 2013 parade. Not only have we been working with event organisers, but we have been working with the LGBTI community, to help make this year’s parade the best yet.

Remember, the new liquor laws come into effect on Monday, which will impact bars and clubs on Oxford St, so if you’re not going to the after party, there’s a few things you’ll need to know.

A new CBD entertainment precinct has been established, stretching from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay, and The Rocks to Haymarket and parts of Surry Hills.

All licensed premises in this precinct will now have a 1.30am lockout, serve last drinks at 3am and troublemakers will face temporary banning orders. In addition, you won’t be able to buy take-away alcohol anywhere in NSW after 10pm.

All the details, including the precinct map, are available on the NSW Government website: http://www.nsw.gov.au.

Regardless of where you party-on after the parade, I urge everyone to look after themselves and their friends. By all means, have a great time and enjoy your night but don’t overdo it.

Looking forward to seeing everyone along the parade route – make sure you stop and say hello. Happy Mardi Gras 2014.

 

 

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