The New South Wales Police Force has used the 40th anniversary of the first Sydney Mardi Gras to publicly apologise for its past persecution of the LGBTI community.

Speaking on the weekend at a reenactment of the protest that became known as Mardi Gras, Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell made an apology for police brutality and arrests, on behalf of Commissioner Mick Fuller.

“We have, we will, and we do apologise for the police actions in 1978, and for the pain and hurt that the police caused through their actions,” said Crandell.

He said members of the LGBTI community had described their past fear of police in public spaces, and called this “a massive failure” by the force.

“That should never happen again, and it certainly shouldn’t happen on my watch,” he said.

“There should never be fear of police officers.”

Crandell said that Commissioner Fuller has held meetings with some of the 78ers, who participated in the 1978 protest for LGBTI civil rights, and plans to speak with more.

“’78ers have got so many qualities that I absolutely admire,” he said.

“Courage, persistence… to see the black and white [difference] of 1978 versus 2018, what a remarkable feeling that must be.”

Crandell acknowledged the work of LGBTIQ liaison officers, a program that began in 1990 with just six officers in Sydney, and has now grown to hundreds across the state.

He said that all new recruits now receive training that includes meeting with members of the community to help them understand LGBTI issues.

“There’s still work to be done, but we’re heading in the right direction,” said Crandell.

The New South Wales Police Force has apologised on previous occasions for its historical violence against the LGBTI community.

Over the decades since the first Mardi Gras, relations with the LGBTI community have improved.

This year, the police headquarters in Sydney marked Mardi Gras with a week of flying the rainbow flag, symbolising solidarity with LGBTI people.

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