Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has apologised for the force’s “unnecessary and unacceptable harm” to the LGBTIQ community.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton delivered the formal apology to the community and LGBTIQ police officers on Monday.
“I acknowledge that there have been times in our history with the LGBTI community when Victoria Police has fallen short of the expectations that the community rightly puts upon us,” he said.
“There have clearly been times when police actions caused unnecessary and unacceptable harm – to the community and to our own people.
“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.”
Ashton said he was “extremely proud” of Victoria Police’s progress in the years since. He said August 19 is the 20 year anniversary of the Victoria Police LGBTI portfolio reference group.
Consisting of police representatives, peak bodies and community organisations, the reference group provides advice, expertise and feedback to assist Victoria Police in its engagement with diverse communities.
Ashton said Victoria Police officers now march in Melbourne’s Midsumma Pride March each year.
The force’s network of more than 370 Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs) in the organisation.
“This work is not complete. We’re committed to becoming an organisation that reflects the entire community, and one that firmly rejects homophobia, transphobia, and other types of prejudice,” he said.
Report finds homophobia and transphobia within Victoria Police
Commissioner Graham Ashton’s comments come months after a report found homophobic and transphobic harassment still persists within the force.
The report claimed senior officers were harassing and bullying LGBTIQ members of the force with violent language and slurs.
That same month, police also came under fire over a botched raid involving Melbourne’s Hares and Hyenas gay bookstore.
Police admitted they “stuffed up” after mistaking Nik Dimopoulos for a carjacker and breaking his arm during his arrest.
BREAKING: @VictoriaPolice Chief Commissioner @GrahamAshtonCCP delivers a historic apology for Victoria Police’s role in enforcing laws in a way which resulted in significant harm for members of LGBTIQ+ communities, harm that has lasted throughout many lives. pic.twitter.com/fAXUPiGkEE
— Lee Carnie (@LeeJCarnie) August 19, 2019
25th anniversary of ‘watershed’ Tasty Nightclub raid
This month also marks 25 years since the Tasty Nightclub raid in Melbourne on August 7, 1994.
During the raid, 463 patrons of the gay venue were detained for hours by armed Victoria Police officers.
Police publicly strip searched, cavity searched and allegedly verbally abused the patrons.
The event sparked a public backlash and legal action against the force. As a result, over 200 patrons shared a $10 million payout. Victoria Police apologised for the raid in 2014, 20 years later.
Former Tasty promoter Gavin Campbell said the raid was “a watershed moment” in Australian LGBTIQ history.
“Many raid victims couldn’t find a voice. [They were] too traumatised, too closeted, had too much to lose,” he said in 2014.
“These silent victims of the Tasty raid, qualify as an inspiration in our fight for rights, they epitomise the injustices.”
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