Police chief apologises for causing ‘unacceptable harm’ to LGBT community

Graham Ashton in full police uniform at a press conference

The chief commissioner of Australia’s Victoria Police has issued a landmark apology to the LGBT+ community.

Graham Ashton addressed the community and LGBT+ police officers as he apologised for the historic enforcement of anti-gay laws.

“There have clearly been times when police actions caused unnecessary and unacceptable harm to the community and to our own people,” Ashton said at a dedicated event on Monday (August 19).

“I am sorry to everyone in the community who did not receive the support and service they should have, who were concerned for their own safety and wellbeing, who as Victoria Police employees could not be their authentic selves at work.”

Most LGBT+ people don’t report crimes

Leading senior constable Gabby Tyacke acknowledged that while relationships between police and the community have improved, there is still much work to be done.

“About 70 to 80 percent of LGBT+ people still don’t report crimes to the police,” Tyacke said at the event.

“So even though we’re doing a lot of work within the community, there’s a lot more to be done to make people feel confident and safe.”

Victoria’s sodomy law was repealed in 1981, though a last-minute clause on “soliciting for immoral purposes” inserted by backbench MPs saw police harassment of GBT+ men continue for many years.

An infamous incident in 1994 saw 463 patrons of a gay nightclub detained for several hours, with strip searches and cavity searches reportedly conducted in full view of others.

There’s a lot more to be done to make people feel confident and safe.

Victoria Police apologised for the raid in 2014, the same year that the state became the first in Australia to expunge the criminal records of men convicted for having sex with other men.

Currently, the force is investigating a botched arrest in which a man’s arm was broken outside of an LGBT+ bookshop in Fitzroy, north Melbourne.

Police have been accused of not identifying themselves during the raid,and of racially profiling Nik Dimopoulos, whose “only crime was looking Middle Eastern” according to his lawyer Jeremy King.