THE NSW police officer with ultimate oversight of LGBTI community relations has told the Star Observer his aim is to ensure 2014’s Mardi Gras, where no complaints against the force were received, wasn’t a one-off and is repeated at next year’s festival.

Detective Superintendent Tony Crandell, NSW Police’s spokesperson on LGBTI issues, was speaking in Sydney to announce plans for a special “tribute-entry” at next year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to mark the 25th anniversary of the state’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) program.

“I think [relations with the LGBTI community] have been rebuilt,” said Crandell, referring to 2013’s low point where a video of teenager Jamie Jackson being slammed to the ground by an officer from outside the area made headlines worldwide.

Crandell said the lack of any complaints in 2014 was proof progress had been made.

“We are very, very focused on 2015 and we want to make sure 2014 wasn’t a fluke,” he said.

“It’s about being considerate and treating people decently. We put in place some really big changes:  we had the local officer who understands the LGBTI community dealing with the local issues and I think that’s really important as they’re my officers and I take responsibility for them.”

Other measures, including working in close contact with Mardi Gras and its volunteers on the Parade route and giving partygoers who are searched for drugs immediate access to independent legal advice, had helped to restore trust in the force, Crandell told the Star Observer.

Mardi Gras chief executive Michael Rolik said an accord, signed by the police, now laid down the most appropriate way to liaise with community groups and approach policing at the season’s main events.

“One of the root causes why things waned two years ago was because that continuity wasn’t there and that’s one of the big wins,” he said.

“The other thing is we’re actively involved in supporting the police to do their job which for our people, whether it’s at Mardi Gras or all year round, is to feel safe and secure.”

As for tips as to what the police’s 2015 Parade entry might look like, Rolik said: “We have a creative team in the Parade, so I think I will pass that over to the professionals — but definitely blue and sparkly and lots of glitter.”

Crandell didn’t rule out blue glitter, saying the force had “grand plans” for the Parade and hinting at the creation of unique badge that all GLLOs who attend the anniversary could wear.

GLLOs can now be found in both inner city and suburban areas of NSW with the longest serving officer ensconced with the local LGBTI population of Broken Hill in the state’s far west.

Crandell said his ambition was for an inspector in each of the NSW Police’s 76 local area commands to be fully signed up to the initiative.

“The GLLOs have really been the backbone of our commitment to the LGBTI community and without them we wouldn’t have a voice on the ground whether supporting our own staff or the LGBTI community right across the state,” he said.

Main image: Tony Crandell (in uniform, second from right) announced plans for a special “tribute-entry” at next year’s Mardi Gras Parade to mark the 25th anniversary of NSW’s GLLO program. Pictured here with (from left to right) Mardi Gras co-chair Fran Bowron, Police Minister Stuart Ayres, Mardi Gras co-chair Paul Savage, and Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik. (Picture: Benedict Brook)

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