Top officer’s tolerant gay legacy must be applauded

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STEVE CANAVAN: The case of the 'kitchen' door is open and shut

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Cast your mind back to the greatly-loved, testosterone-fuelled TV series of the 1970s – The Sweeney.

Imagine the reaction those fictional cops Jack Regan and George Carter would have had to a colleague who admitted they were gay?

The series painted a picture of the macho Flying Squad which was politically incorrect, but certainly accurate.

In those days the police service, plus the armed forces and professional football, was probably the worst for hounding suspected homosexuals into the closet.

Those who toyed with the idea of coming out hardly gave it a second thought, such would be the snide comments if not outright bullying such an admission would attract.

We are not pretending for a minute that all is rosy in those worlds today, although much improved it certainly is.

Alex Marshall, the chief constable of Hampshire, leaves his job at the end the month, but departs with a considerable legacy – a champion of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community which has made the county and Isle of Wight force the most tolerant in the country.

He has been named as the UK’s Individual Champion of the Year for his commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff and communities.

We salute him and the massive strides he has taken since his appointment in 2008.

His comments about what life was like when he joined in 1980 are revealing and serve as a reminder to all those who work and live in less enlightened surroundings today.

‘When I started 33 years ago there was a small but significantly vocal minority of people in policing who were dismissive or even derogatory about members of the public or colleagues who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

‘I remember a very courageous colleague when I started who was the only openly gay officer I knew. I’ve always felt I owe it to her and the people we serve who are picked on because of their sexual orientation to improve our service and bring policing to where it needs to be for everyone.’