Friday, February 17, 2006

Cops Lose their GLLOs

Cops Lose their GLLOs

Front page article Melbourne Star this week

Victoria police quietly dropped full-time gay and lesbian gay and liaison officers for major regional towns such as Geelong, Warrnambool, Ballarat and Wodonga in January. Outer suburbs like Knox, Nillumbik, Whitehorse, and Boorondara lost their GLLO at the same time. Officers who have been promoted or moved on – sometimes at their own request – have not yet been replaced.

Police say the GLLOs in Regions 2 and 4 (see breakout boxes) have had little to do. But this could reflect the way the officers are selected, rather than a genuine lack of anti-gay crime. Many GLLOs are volunteers with a genuine desire to serve the gay and lesbian community. But others were appointed to the role, and many of these were intimidated by the job and uncomfortable dealing with gay and lesbian people.

Kirstin Hughes of BBent Ballarat said Senior Constable Josh Allison had been a very pro-active GLLO, but his predecessor had done almost nothing. She said she wasn’t surprised that few cases had been reported, as until Allison took over, hardly anyone knew GLLOs even existed or how to contact them.

Sources say many of the appointed officers made little or no attempt to work with the GLBTI community, and “just sat in their offices waiting for the phone to ring.” As a result they had little or no GLBTI-related crime to report. By contrast, officers who volunteered for the job were motivated to reach out and develop relationships with individuals and community groups, and in their areas gays and lesbians have come to feel more confident in reporting, for example, hate-related incidents.

The removal of full time coverage in Regions 2 and 4 means only Region 1 – covering the city and inner suburbs – currently has a full-time gay and lesbian liaison officer. Regions 3 and 5 have never had full-time coverage – and even in these areas the numbers have been reduced. The total number of GLLO’s, which stood at 12 in November last year, is currently down to 7.

In Region 2, it’s allegedly been suggested that station sergeants or regional inspectors could take on the job. These are already very busy people, most of whom have not been specially trained in GLBTI issues, and are unlikely to be especially sensitive to our concerns or pro-active in forging links with our community. The rate of reported anti-gay crime will then fall still further, regardless of the real situation on the ground.

John Todor, Acting Superintendent for Region 4 said the GLLO position would be retained ‘under a new structure with modified reporting lines’, but the position was not being abolished. He stressed that ‘effective liaison with community groups will be maintained.’

Superintendent David Newton from Regon 2 said a review had determined that ‘a single full-time GLLO did not provide the best possible service to he community’ due to ‘the geography of the region, which stretches from Footscray to the SA border.’ Instead 15 officers spread across the region will take on the voluntary profile as GLLOs, co-ordinated by a single inspector.

Mike Kennedy of the VAC said, “You want people who are seen as being approachable by the community. The process whereby you had volunteers who were screened and then trained is very different from saying we’ll allocate this to a person, whoever they may happen to be, who’s in a particular role, such as station sergeant. This isn’t an appropriate way to do it.”

He said the VAC would be writing to Commissioner Christine Nixon and Police Minister Tim Holding, asking for public commitment to the continuation and development of the GLLO program.
There is resistance to the program within Victoria police, which has been exploited by the state Liberal opposition. In September last year the Liberals complained that Holding had boosted the Gay and Lesbian Unit by 20 while cutting the Police Schools Involvement Program (PSIP).
They claimed that “police can’t understand why the Gay and Lesbian Unit has been boosted when there are widespread shortages of police everywhere else across the force.” It appears there are some within the Victoria Police who agree with them.
[Breakout Boxes]
Region 2
Give the job to the station sergeants
Hobsons Bay Brimbank Melton Maribyrnong Geelong Wyndham Queenscliffe Surf Coast Ballarat Pyrenees Goldfields Hepburn Moorabool Golden Plains Ararat Nth & Sth Grampians Yarriambiak Horsham West Wimmera Hindmarsh Colac Otway Moyne Glenelg Corangamite Warrnambool

Region 4
No replacement planned
Banyule Manningham Nillumbik Whitehorse Monash Booroondara Knox Maroondah Yarra Ranges Mitchell Murrindindi Delatite Strathbogie Wangaratta Alpine Wodonga Indigo Towonga

“Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers are specially trained in GLBTL issues
Victoria Police GLLOs can assist by providing discrete, non judgemental advice and assistance in the reporting of crimes.

“GLLOs do not actively investigate the crime. By calling a GLLO, victims can discuss the incident then work out the most suitable process for the matter to be reported. The GLLO can also provide expert advice and assistance to police investigators.

“Members of the GLBTI community, family or friends can contact a GLLO to discuss issues, obtain advice or advise of incidents occurring in the community.”
Victoria Police

Before 1981 when homosexuality was decriminalised, police were actively involved in the arrest of members of GLBTI communities. This led to GLBTI communities feeling isolated and reluctant to trust police. So many crimes against gays and lesbians, especially domestic violence and sexual assaults, went unreported.

To try and overcome this, a part time gay and lesbian liaison officer was introduced in 1990, and then, in 2000, Victoria Police appointed its first full time Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer.

The GLLO position description and appointment was developed through a Victoria Police/Equal Opportunity Commission working group, with representatives of the Victorian Aids Council and the Also Foundation. This group produced a mission statement which says “The Gay and Lesbian Mission is to contribute to the creation of mutual trust between police, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex persons so that they may have increasing confidence in police through he provisions of fair and equitable policing service.”
Victoria Police

AT the time we went to press no response was received from either Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon or Police Minister Tim Holding


On the day the edited version of this article appeared I received a phone call from Tim Holding’s media advisor apologizing for not responding sooner, but ‘the matter has only just been brought to my attention’. He assured me ‘no disrespect was intended’. I invited the minister to respond once he had read the article.

On Friday I spoke to police sources who told me:

• A copy of the article has been scanned and sent to every chief constable in Victoria.
• In Region 4 the hierarchy were ‘backpedalling furiously’ and the sitting GLLO, Lisa Kyte, had been told to remain in post for the time being.
• There is still resistance from Region 2.
• Two gay officers were planning to go to Tim Holding’s favourite restaurant and drop a copy of the paper on the table in front of him tonight.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Back on Deck

Apologies for the long time between drinks: I've been a) recuperating after doing the Rainbow Report non-stop for six months b) getting started in my new job as Editor of Melbourne Star and c) trying not to lose my temper over the silly internal politics of a fag radio station, which I won't go into here.

I guess I thought, after ten years in Oz, that the 'tall poppy syndrome', whereby anyone who achieves anything significant immediately becomes a target for any jealous idiot with a metaphorical scythe, was a myth. Now I know better.

But that's by the way: soon I should know if the strenuous efforts on my behalf to blunt the scythes have been successful.

Meantime I now have two editions of Melbourne Star under my belt: edition one had too many all cap headings, edition two, too many mentions of my home 'burb (but I am very proud of the place), next week I start on edition 3.

With any luck someone will get round to updating the website one of these years but the current edition is there as a pdf. SO now you can read me there instead of here!