Anger as new Assistant Chief Constable faces torrent of ‘vile’ homophobic abuse

Photo shows two uniformed police officers meeting King Charles, the one on the left is Karen Findlay

The appointment of Commander Karen Findlay as new Assistant Chief Constable by the British Transport Police was marked in a traditional celebratory post on X (formerly known as Twitter), on 16 February 2024.

However, what was intended as a straightforward, informative tweet turned into a shocking display of online vitriol as the post about Karen Findlay was almost immediately inundated with “horrendous personal, sexist, and homophobic” comments – including ones that mocked her appearance and misgendered her.

The online cesspool of vile remarks quickly prompted outrage from senior police figures.

The Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, didn’t hold back when lambasting the trolls, saying:

“Whilst she has rightly received many congratulations, the X post announcing her appointment has also been targeted by online trolls, many anonymous, making horrendous personal sexist and homophobic comments. I am angry. My colleagues are angry. It isn’t acceptable and it’s happening too often.”

Commander Karen Findlay, who originally served in Grampian Police in the northeast of Scotland before transferring to the Met in 1993, also took to social media to condemn the “homophobic, sexist vileness” she had been subjected to, emphasising that the focus should remain on professional merit and dedication.

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Photo showing Karen Findlay at a rugby match acting as coach, she's wearing a dark coloured t-shirt and wearing a red and black bobble hat.
Karen Findlay is also a rugby coach and former international player who played for the Scotland women’s national rugby union team. She coaches Harlequins Ladies who compete in the Women’s Premiership. She won 85 caps for Scotland and captained the side 52 times (Getty)

She reposted a statement made by BTP’s Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, which said: “I have been shocked to see how many people took our post, which was celebrating the appointment of a senior woman in policing, as an opportunity to respond with vile, nasty, and homophobic messages.”

Despite the increasing pile on in the tweet replies, Chief Constable D’Orsi remained resolute, vowing to keep the original tweet up on the platform to “spotlight the misogyny that women in policing continue to face”.

Since Elon Musk took over the platform in October 2022, rebranding it to X, many LGBTQ+ organisations and individuals have left the site, citing an increase in homophobic abuse as the reason for shutting their accounts.

In November 2023, non-profit LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organisation The Trevor Project announced its official departure from X after witnessing a concerning spike in “hate and vitriol.”

In the announcement, The Trevor Project stated that Musk’s reckless removal of certain safeguarding policies made it tough to “create a welcoming space” for LGBTQ+ youth.

Transgender charity Mermaids made a similar announcement in October 2023 – as did LGBTQ+ Youth Scotland and The San Francisco LGBT Centre in May 2023.

GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ media advocacy organisation, released its annual Social Media Safety Index and Platform Scorecard in June 2023, which ranks social media platforms based on their efforts to ensure the safety of LGBTQ+ users.

Among all social media networks, X was listed last, and described by GLAAD as “the most dangerous platform for LGBTQ+ people. It was the only social media platform that saw its score decline from the year before.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley smiles during a visit from Britain's King Charles III.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley smiles during a visit from Britain’s King Charles III. (Carl de Souza/Getty)

Commenting on the Karen Findlay case, Sir Mark Rowley also reflected on the issue of online abuse directed at police officers more widely.

He said: “The intensity of the racist, sexist, and homophobic abuse directed at police officers on social media is increasing alarmingly. At a time when we need to attract officers from under-represented parts of our communities this is hugely damaging.”

The commissioner added: “It is wholly unacceptable that those whose profession is to protect and serve others increasingly face such intrusive, vile and hateful abuse.”

He urged people on social media to “reflect on their actions”, insisting that his colleagues “deserve better”.

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