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Blog by LGBT+ lead, Supt Paul Court

In my first blog as lead for LGBT+ issues for the Police Superintendents’ Association, I’d like to start by posing you a question.

What do you see when you look at this image? Just Kissing Coppers?

I’ll also start with a quick quiz, as I find this always gets people more interested in what I’m saying……So, one point for the name of the image, another for the artist, one for the location and one for the year (I’ll allow a year either side).  

This image means completely different things to different people, and I wonder what you see when you look at the painting. 

Some may see an image poking fun at the police, whilst others may see an image showing the human side of policing. Some may look at it and wish they had the confidence to be themselves at work. Some may feel uncomfortable to see officers engaged in such a way. Some, I am sure, will look at the image and wonder how they would ever have the time with today’s policing demands…..I shall return to this later.  

Whilst it seems a long time ago now, it was only last summer that I was at WorldPride in New York, which commemorated its 50th year since the Stonewall Riots. Listening to the stories from people who worked at the Stonewall Inn, served as a reminder that we should be proud of our UK Police Service. We strive to be more inclusive, more accepting and more embracing of difference, and I am very proud to be part of the PSA which is a driving force towards this. 

It was also last year when I attended EuroPride in Vienna, and listened as Dr Melania Geymonat addressed the worldwide audience about her experience of having been a victim of homophobic assault. You may remember the newspaper images of her and her partner on the bus in London with bloodied faces having been assaulted by a group of young people. As I listened to her speak, it served as a reminder of the work we still need to do to keep people safe, both outside and inside the Service. 

Listening to other people’s stories and experiences is important if I am to represent our members well within the PSA. But I also bring my own experiences and stories too; my experiences of being outed by the vetting process, having been victim of homophobic assault and having to disclose it to my force, and my nervousness of taking part in my first Pride parade and standing alongside officers within my team who were transitioning.

So why did I start this blog by asking what you thought of Kissing Coppers? Unlike my first four quiz questions, there is no right answer. The way you interpret this image will be based on your own upbringing, background and experiences. As I sit in the LGBT+ reserve seat at the PSA, my approach to this role will naturally be my own interpretation of what I think is required. It will be how I see things looking through my own lens based on my own experiences.

I’ve told you a bit about the lens but what about my interpretation? I want to make sure that those who do not have the confidence to disclose their sexuality at work still have a voice through me. I want to ensure that the vetting process is as caring as it can be by not outing individuals. I want to make sure that those living with HIV are free from stigma in the workplace by increasing awareness of the facts. I want to be able to contribute to the outstanding work of the national LGBT+ network as they seek to support all forces in delivering meaningful activity. Most importantly, I would like you colleagues to know that if they have a concern, they should feel able to speak to me about it so I can help. 

In my view, it’s this inclusive, open approach to experience and interpretation that will help us enhance the diversity within our workforce and within the Services we deliver.  LGBT+ issues are just some of the many ‘issues’ we place under the banner of ‘under-represented groups’ and we have to be careful not to see them as only this – boxed off issues that we have to ‘deal with’.  These groups are our workforce.  We need their experiences, their interpretations and their expertise to benefit and enhance who we are.

That is my own interpretation of the role of the PSA’s LGBT+ reserve seat, but please do help inform my interpretation by getting in touch to discuss where you think the PSA can help.

Oh yes, the quiz answers…:

1.    Kissing Coppers
2.    Banksy
3.    2004
4.    Brighton (but half a mark for Amsterdam). 

Photo credit: Shutterstock