Homophobia still a problem for Vic cops – News Report

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A report into homophobia within the ranks of Victorian police shows the blue uniform and rainbow flag sometimes still don’t mix.

Findings released on Friday revealed homophobic and transphobic threats, jokes and banter occur among officers and often go unchallenged.

Despite recent improvements, LGBTI officers are still subject to homophobic and transphobia language, sexual harassment and discrimination, according to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report.

One Victoria Police employee told the commission “there is still a culture of ‘banter’ within the police force”.

“I am often gobsmacked when members, who know I identify as a gay man, still have no issues using phrases like ‘cocksucker’ and ‘knob jockey’ around me,” he said.

“In the last year I was part of a briefing where an inspector made a throwaway transphobic comment, and the whole room of 100 people laughed at it.”

Another recounted an acting sergeant “telling staff members that he doesn’t like working with fags”, while in a separate incident an officer said “all gays should be gassed in the chamber like the Nazis”.

The force had “made great strides as an organisation, but know that we cannot be satisfied until every employee can go to work as their authentic self”, Acting Assistant Commissioner Lisa Hardeman said.

The commission found a lack of trust in internal reporting processes while fears of victimisation, reprisal or being outed hindered officers from making complaints.

Bystanders were also generally unwilling to call out anti-LGBTI behaviour because they feared repercussions.

The Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission interviewed 18 Victoria Police employees and received 32 submissions for the report.

It found the force was moving in the right direction, amid increasingly visible police support for the LGBTI community.

“Tolerance isn’t enough. What we’re looking for is acceptance, genuine unqualified acceptance,” the commission’s executive director Catherine Dixon said.

“The findings of the report do tell us there’s still a way to go. The staff who shared their experiences with us described a hyper-masculine and hetero-normative culture that normalises homophobic attitudes.”

Last February, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton apologised to former and current LGBTI police for harm they had experienced at work.

The commission wants Victoria Police to allow employees to record their sexual orientation or gender identity on a voluntary basis so the force could better understand and support officers.

In 2017, a public sector employee survey found five per cent of Victoria Police participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, while another 12 per cent did not want to disclose their sexual orientation.

The force has accepted the commission’s recommendations.

“An an organisation we’re not proud of things that happened historically to our members. But we’re getting better, we’re acknowledging what has occurred,” Ms Hardeman said.

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