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It's important no one has to hide or pretend

Last year the Police Superintendents’ Association funded two places on the Stonewall Young Leaders Programme.

Applications were open to anyone aged 18-25 working in policing in England and Wales for the programme,  which is designed to help young LGBT people explore what it means to be yourself in the workplace as LGBT and also to inspire participants to think about their impact on others as leaders and role models.

The programme considers issues such as what makes a leader, authentic and inclusive leadership, and the impact of bias.

The programme took place over two days in London and one of the officers we funded was 23-year old Northumbria Police response officer Joshua Lumsden.

Joshua has been a PC for two and half years and joined the service after completing a degree in criminology and working as a Special for 18 months.

He has previously been Northumbria Police Student Officer of the Year and has also won its Diversity in Partnerships Award.

He says he is “genuinely thankful” for the Stonewall opportunity.

“It is providing me with things that I didn’t have before, which help me develop my leadership skills. “I was very lucky to get a place and met an amazing mix of people from different backgrounds and mixture of trans, bi, lesbian and gay. 

“We were able to spend two days thinking about ourselves and our leadership styles,  and how to be authentic. 

“There were no bystanders. Stonewall encouraged us all to speak up. I heard everyone’s stories of how they got to where they are. Some were really hard to hear, such as horrendous experiences from the trans people in the group. 

“It was a very relaxed atmosphere and there was no judgement. You never had to watch what you were saying.”

The police service was well represented in the group. Joshua recalls:

“Of the 25 attendees, five were from the service – a mix of officers, specials and police staff,” “I was pleased it wasn’t just police attending although we were really the only public sector service there.”

He said his own experience of being out in the service has been positive:

“I’m open and relaxed about it, and sexuality shouldn’t be an issue. People can accept it or not. When my team are dealing with jobs then our sexuality doesn’t come in to it. We are just police officers. 

“I enjoy speaking to student officers in training school. It’s really important we give them the impression that as soon as they walk through the doors you can just be yourself and no-one has to hide or pretend.”

As Treasurer of the Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary LGBT+ association – he also runs its Twitter feed @NPLGBT – Joshua is involved in events and campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of LGBT inclusivity and valuing difference.

This includes a ‘Rainbow Laces’ event with Newcastle Falcons.

He also attended the Stonewall Top 100 Employers event with his Chief Constable Winton Keenen in January. Seven police forces made the list, including Northumbria at number 69. Joshua said:

“My Chief Officers have been very supportive, both of me and of the work we do on LGBT issues.” 

“As resources tighten, it’s harder to do engagement events and so it’s really important to get the feedback to show the value of doing them. 

“I think as a service we do events like Pride really well. You see hundreds of officers at something like Manchester Pride and it sends a really strong message. Society has adapted and is adapting, and I think the police have a huge part to play in this.”

Attending the Stonewall programme has given Joshua access to what he calls a “personal equality network”:

“We have kept in touch. There is a six-month reunion in June which is a chance to compare notes about what we’ve done and what we’re planning. 

“We also have a WhatsApp group where we share ideas and it’s great to have access to such a range of people and views at your fingertips. 

“The programme is two days that I think will really help my career, particularly as I sit the Sergeant’s exam in March.” 

The Association’s  LGBT lead Det Supt Clinton Blackburn said Joshua’s experience of the programme is why the Association chose to fund places on it:

“People perform better when they are able to be themselves at work. 

“Supporting the programme underlines the Association’s commitment to valuing difference and those individual strengths that everyone can bring to their job and their team, for the benefit of policing as a whole.”

The Association intends to fund places on the 2018 programme and details will be available later in the year.

This is one of several activities the Association is running to support LGBT officers and staff and other under-represented groups.

More than 700 places have been made available to members this year for training in coaching and mentoring, to give Superintendents and Chief Superintendents the skills to support colleagues from under-represented groups and help them develop. Eight of 12 sessions, organised with the College of Policing, have been held so far. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in attending any of the March sessions at Ryton or Harperley Hall.

The Association is also looking at the possibility of developing a national LGBT mentoring scheme for peers in the Superintending ranks, working with the NPCC portfolio lead, and holding a valuing difference workshop in May, for under-represented groups to share learning and facilitate networking.