Four in five LGBTQI Victorians do not trust Victoria Police, whilst over 75% do not want officers to march in uniform at the annual Midsumma Pride parade in Melbourne, a survey published by the Victorian Pride Lobby on Tuesday found. The study was conducted in August 2020 and surveyed roughly 1,500 LGBTQI Victorians.

One transwoman who participated in the survey said she felt “unsafe and uncomfortable” with the way police looked down on her and made her feel “small and ridiculed”.

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Another person recalled how they did not register a crime after repeated requests to be connected to one of Victoria Police’s LGBTQI liaison officers was refused by the local police station.

‘Decades Of Harmful Policing’

Nik Dimopoulos.

According to Devina Potter, the Lobby’s co-convenor, while Victoria Police has taken measures to repair the trust deficit with the community, it still has a long way to go before the relationship is repaired.

Recent incidents like the police raid on Melbourne’s iconic bookstore Hares and Hyenas in 2019 and the leak of custodial photos of former AFL coach Dani Laidley were cited as some of the reasons why the community could not completely trust the police.

During the 2019 botched raid on the bookstore, LGBTQI event organiser Nik Dimopoulos was seriously injured and mistakenly arrested. Following an inquiry, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) said that while Dimopoulos’ human rights were impacted, the police had not used “disproportionate force”.

“Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ communities have experienced decades of harmful policing in this state, including several high profile and fraught incidents in recent years,” Potter said in a statement.

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“Because of this, LGBTIQA+ people are discouraged from reaching out to the police when they experience vilification, harassment or abuse, for fear they may not be taken seriously or will be treated prejudicially. This is especially the case for members of our community with intersecting identities, like First Nations people, trans and gender diverse people, people with disabilities, sex workers, and illicit drug users,” said Potter, adding that the police would need a systemic change to repair the damage.

Victoria Police Say It Will Rectify Past Wrongs

A file photo of Victoria Police at the 2021 Midsumma Pride Parade. Photo- Mattia Abad

Victoria Police acknowledged the concerns expressed by the community and said that they had met with the Lobby to address them.

“We also acknowledge the strong and productive relationships we have with many individuals and organisations across the broader Victorian LGBTIQ community over many years,” Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson told Star Observer in a statement.

“Victoria Police remains steadfast in its commitment to rectifying wrongdoings of the past, and we are motivated to do more to earn the trust and confidence of the LGBTIQ community. Victoria Police will continue to promote a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace – one that is free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” said Paterson.

The Deputy Commissioner pointed to its network of around 420 LGBTIQ liaison officers, who “work tirelessly to enhance the mutual trust and respect between LGBTIQ communities and police.”

Police Officers In Pride March

Victoria Police at the Midsumma Pride march 2021. Photo: Mattia Abad.

Deputy commissioner Patterson also weighed in on calls from some in the community for officers not to march in the Midsumma Pride parade in their uniforms.

“We value the opportunity to celebrate and show our support for LGBTIQ communities and our own LGBTIQ employees at the Pride March every year and for the past 20 years. Participating in this inclusive event is a proud reminder that our workforce is also representative of the community they serve,” said Patterson.

The police’s participation in Pride marches has been a contentious issue across the world. In September, Brisbane Pride had requested the police not to march in uniforms at the annual parade. The survey revealed that many in the community did not feel comfortable with police in uniforms at LGBTQI events.

Over 75.27 % of LGBTQI Victorians said that the police should not participate in the Pride March in uniforms and these views were higher (89.24 %) among trans and gender diverse Victorians. Around 80.26 % said they do not feel safe when there is a large contingent of police present at community events.

The report also revealed some worrying statistics about everyday interactions that LGBTQI Victorians had had with local police. Of the 86.39% of participants who said they had interacted with police in their lifetime, many rated their experience as poor. The weighted average was around 1.88 on a scale of one being very poor and five being very good.

Around half said that police were hostile or aggressive (53.93%) or disrespectful (47.20%). Nearly half (43.07 %) of participants said that the officer they had interacted with was homophobic.

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

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