CONSTABLE Brenton Erkens-Goss is hoping to do himself out of a job.
As one of more than 100 Victoria Police LGBTI Liaison Officers (GLLOs), Const Erkens-Goss imagines a future without the need for specialised support – where there is no difference and everyone is treated equally “as a person”.
“We’re not quite there yet but we’re definitely gaining ground,” he says.
After dreaming of becoming a police officer from a young age, Const Erkens-Goss now works to ensure LGBTI interactions with Victoria Police are always fair and respectful.
“Everyone deserves to be treated equally and be able to live in their own skin without having to hide who they truly are,” he says.
The force’s relationship with LGBTI communities hit rock bottom in the Tasty nightclub in 1994. Officers detained 463 patrons for seven hours, subjecting them to strip and cavity searches.
In 2014 then-Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Nolan formally apologised; ushering in a new era of policing to rebuild and regain trust.
Const Erkens-Goss says it was hard to hear about the disturbing raid as part of the Academy’s training, but ultimately it was indicative of a different time and a different Victoria Police.
“Originally when I was training as a Protective Services Officer, I hid it (being gay) but now the Academy is very, very supportive,” he says.
The Academy has an LGBTI Student Network and Const Erkens-Goss’ endeavours to implement his learnings from the inaugural World LGBT Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals in Amsterdam to increase inclusiveness among members.
“Victoria Police has definitely changed in the past two years,” he says, ahead of his graduation from the Constable Qualifying Program.
“Some people have never been friends with someone who is LGBTI and (they can have an attitude that comes from) ignorance or fear. It’s hard but if you have a conversation with them they become much more understanding.”
Out in the community, that understanding is also making a real difference to people’s lives.
“In one case recently I helped a trans teenager who was experiencing family violence from her father who was withholding her medication,” Const Erkens-Goss explains.
“I mediated with her dad and helped them get counselling. Her father simply misunderstood how his daughter was feeling and didn’t understand what she was experiencing, through specialised counselling this has educated him.”
But under-reporting of prejudice-motivated crimes and family violence, especially from older LGBTI victims, still concerns Const Erkens-Goss and the LGBTI liaison officers, who can informally discuss concerns, assist through the reporting process or help advise other police colleagues.
Const Erkens-Goss says Victoria Police’s involvement in events like Pride and Midsumma is far from tokenism, and shows the organisation celebrates diversity and is respectful and there to help.
“If someone asked me about joining Victoria Police I’d say ‘go for it!’ Victoria Police is an inclusive organisation with a lot of career progression.”
Hopefully, for Const Erkens-Goss that progression includes a spot in the ranks of the sought-after Dog Squad and the eventual retirement of his LGBTI liaison badge as the blue line becomes just another part of the rainbow.
Reach out to your local LGBTI Liaison Officer (or GLLO) on 9247 6944 or [email protected].
Be a force for good and join Victoria Police. For more information or to apply visit https://www.policecareer.vic.gov.au/.