Meet the Portsmouth officers who are on the beat to protect our city’s LGBT community
THEY are standing up to hate crime. By engaging with the community they want to stamp out crimes on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Portsmouth police’s LAGLOs (Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers) offered a visible presence of this expanding unit at a soft re-launch outside the corridors of power in the city at the Guildhall.
With 20 new additions to Portsmouth LAGLOs, including officers of all rank involved in the growing unit, it is an area the force is taking seriously as it looks to reduce crimes on this section of society.
The role is varied with LAGLOs working closely with the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) communities to build trust and confidence by encouraging people to report homophobic and transphobic hate crimes whilst offering support to witnesses and victims of crime.
They work across departments including uniform patrol officers, police staff and management. Some but not all of them are gay or lesbian themselves.
Inspector Scott Johnson, co-chair of the LGBT Resource Group, said: ‘We are about trying to get the message out there that we support the LGBT community in Portsmouth.
‘We have staff in all positions within the authority who are specially trained to handle these sort of crimes that we are dealing with – such as hate crimes and domestic abuse.
‘It’s about us engaging with these communities to show we are there to help them and they can come forward and talk to us and know we will listen. It is also about educating groups.
‘We’ve ran a very successful course for our LAGLOs, who are a very important part of our force. We hope that by engaging with the community on this we are able to show we are inclusive and will not tolerate some of the crimes that may not have been reported before.
‘These sort of crimes are taken far more seriously now than before by the Crown Prosecution Service. We also work with cross-border colleagues from Reading to Bournemouth to help us address issues.’
Portsmouth LAGLO is looking to raise its profile by getting involved with a number of community groups and events. These include a visible presence at ‘pride’ events and giving talks at schools and other organisations.
Sgt Dean Juster said raising awareness of the department was important in delivering success and helping those affected by such crimes. ‘These sort of crimes are massively under reported because the victims do not want to come forward or they feel too scared,’ he said.
‘With us now having 20 LAGLOs we feel we are able to engage with the people of Portsmouth and help people facing these sort of crimes.
Michelle Slater, a police community support officer, who has just been trained as one of the new LAGLOs, said: ‘We had guest speakers giving us their life experiences on the problems they have faced.
‘For example, we had a transgender traveller speaking out on the issues they face, especially in an environment where it being a transgender is not easily accepted.
‘We meet up twice a year with other Hampshire groups and discuss ways we can help to improve things.
‘Our aim is to let people know it is not OK to be a victim of these sort of crimes.
‘By educating people we hope we can stamp them out and gain the trust of members within those communities so they can feel they can come to us with any problems.
‘It is not a specialist role – we do this alongside our other duties. But we feel we are making real progress now.
‘We have a lot more people coming forward and reporting crimes and speaking to us about any fears or problems they may have.
‘People are more sympathetic to crimes on LGBT. There is also more safeguarding and support online for people who are victims of these sort of crimes. If anyone has any issues we want them to come forward to us.’
‘There’s still a lot more work to do’
‘WE have come along way in 50 years but there is still a lot more work to do.’
That was the message from police support worker Jocelynne Kingsford, who has worked as a LAGLO for 12 years.
Crimes on lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people used to be far more widespread due to society’s failure to accept them in the community.
Ms Kingsford said: ‘If you go back just 50 years or so then homosexual acts were criminal. But in recent years the age of consent has gone down to 16 years between men so that goes to show how far we have come as a society.
‘But of course there is a lot more to do. I don’t think you will ever fully stamp it out but hopefully by educating people and engaging with people we can make a real difference.
‘Things have changed a lot in my time working as a LAGLO especially with the community now more aware of these groups.
‘We now see more people coming to us with these sort of issues which is a result of us building up trust.
‘We were one of the first areas to deploy LAGLOs.
‘We now have many forces around the country following our example.
‘Changing attitudes have helped. Hopefully they will continue to improve.’