Four out of five LGBTIQ+ Victorians don’t trust Victoria Police to use their powers reasonably and half don’t trust officers with personal information, a new community survey has found.
The Victorian Pride Lobby polled 1500 LGBTIQ+ Victorians in the new survey.
It found four out of five say police did not understand the issues that impacted them, and about 60 per cent said police did not respect them.
Two out of three also felt they were treated unfairly in interactions with police.
About 80 per cent of respondents said they did not feel safe when there was a large police presence at LGBTIQ+ events.
Three quarters of respondents said they do not want Victoria Police marching in uniform at the state’s Pride March.
This rose to nine in 10 among those respondents who are trans and gender diverse.
Recent Victoria Police incidents have eroded community trust
The Pride Lobby said a historic legacy of experiencing discrimination and violence at the hands of police still loomed large for LGBTIQ+ people.
In 2019, Victoria Police apologised to the gay community on the 25th anniversary of the raid on Melbourne’s Tasty nightclub.
Police officers detained and strip-searched 463 people in the raid, who later sued the force.
However the new survey also found recent high-profile incidents involving police further eroded community trust and confidence.
These included the botched police raid on queer bookstore Hares & Hyenas in 2019.
While police were not targeting the LGBTIQ+ community, gay man Nik Dimopoulos was seriously injured in the incident.
Locals were later outraged when police watchdog IBAC cleared the officers of using excessive force.
The Pride Lobby found more than half of respondents felt the Hares & Hyenas raid discouraged them from seeking police help.
More recently, Victoria Police officers leaked sensitive photos of transgender AFL coach Dani Laidley inside a police station.
Six Victoria Police officers involved were later ordered to pay Laidley compensation.
The Lobby said any lack of trust between police and the LGBTIQ+ community has harmful consequences. These include people feeling discouraged from reporting crimes.
“Victims sometimes fear they may not be taken seriously or will be treated prejudicially,” the report states.
LGBTIQ people discouraged from reporting crimes to police
Victorian Pride Lobby co-convenor Devina Potter said many in the community acknowledged progress made by Victoria Police over the years.
However the survey showed Victoria Police still “has a long way to go to mend its fractured relationship with the community.”
“Victoria’s LGBTIQA+ communities have experienced decades of harmful policing in this state, including several high profile and fraught incidents in recent years,” she said.
“Because of this, LGBTIQA+ people are discouraged from reaching out to the police when they experience vilification, harassment or abuse.
“[They] fear they may not be taken seriously or will be treated prejudicially.”
In particular, this was felt by those with intersecting identities including First Nations and trans people, she said.
Porter said the situation requires “attitudinal and systemic change” and the Pride Lobby has made 16 recommendations.
The Pride Lobby recommends Victoria Police make its LGBTIQ training compulsory, starting with managers, and that the course include trans and gender diverse modules.
They also call for a government-funded, community-controlled LGBTIQ+ legal service.
Victoria Police should also improve its data recording and reporting around prejudice-motivated crime.
Watchdog IBAC should also investigation allegations of police misconduct, not Victoria Police themselves, the Pride Lobby said.
Victorian Police ‘motivated to do more’ to earn trust
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson responded to the Victorian Pride Lobby’s report in a statement.
“We have recently met with them to establish an ongoing dialogue to address those concerns,” he said.
“Victoria Police remains steadfast in its commitment to rectifying wrongdoings of the past.
“And we are motivated to do more to earn the trust and confidence of the LGBTIQ+ community.”
He said Victoria Police has a network of more than 420 LGBTIQ+ liaison officers.
The officers “work tirelessly” to strengthen the trust and respect between communities and police, Paterson said.
“We’ll continue to work closely with our stakeholders, including the Victorian Pride Lobby, to better understand how we can work collaboratively to build strong relationships,” he said.
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