I was ironing some shirts for work earlier this week and glanced out of my window. The view isn’t that inspiring – a clock tower, a multi-storey car park and some construction work. But I can see one bit of road 100m away and the front of the city police station. I noticed immediately that they weren’t flying the Union Jack as usual, and realised with surprise that it was the Rainbow Pride flag.
I shouldn’t have been that
surprised, I suppose, since I knew that a couple of days beforehand
Nottinghamshire Police had held a little ceremony to raise the Rainbow flag
outside Nottinghamshire County Hall a couple of miles away. Rainbow flags are
going up all over Nottingham’s public buildings this week in anticipation of
tomorrow’s International Day Against Homo-, Trans- and Biphobia (IDAHOT).
The police get a lot of
criticism, (rightly so in a lot of cases, but not all). So I feel I should put
on record the significant contribution Nottinghamshire Police has made to the
fight against homophobic crime (there was no distinction given at the time for
biphobia or transphobia).
In the 1990s there were
many police initiatives which aimed at tackling hate crimes around the UK. Many
of these crimes were racially motivated but the initiatives dealt with hate
crimes of all types, as far as society in the 1990s recognised what constituted
a hate crime. Verbal abuse, for instance, was not a hate crime. There were no
specific attempts to deal with homophobia or attacks against members of the
The relationship between
the police and the lgbt community was very fragile. There was a lot of
suspicion of the police after the somewhat insensitive handling of various
serial murders of gay men and the bombing of a Soho gay pub. Several police
forces around the country had already recognised that there was a lot to learn
about the lgbt community and the crimes directed against it, but they were slow
to develop their initiatives into actual police procedure.
Liaison groups between
police and lgbt groups in various big cities were formed and guidelines were
drawn up to address how lgbt victims were treated. But, as Anne Summers, the
Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands, said in 1997, “It’s down to each
and every chief officer to say ‘how does this relate to my area and what
priority am I able to give it?’”
In Nottingham plans were
being made in early 1997 for the city’s first lgbt Pride event which was called
Pink Lace. Nottinghamshire Police took this as the impetus to go beyond
initiatives and create an active policy towards homophobic crime, the first in
First of all they
conducted an up-to-date survey to determine the main areas of concern and where
to concentrate their resources. As with national surveys of the same period it
was found that most crimes weren’t being reported because victims were worried
about how the police would respond.
The Nottingham City
Lesbian and Gay Police Initiative (NCGLPI) helped to create Operation Shield, a
campaign that was put in place just in time for Pink Lace in September 1997.
The campaign covered all hate crimes, but it included a specific campaign aimed
at tackling homophobic hate crimes and was called “Blow The Whistle” (official campaign poster below). Now
Nottingham’s victims of homophobic crime had a specific team who would handle
their cases. It received a lot of publicity and media coverage. No other
homophobic crime campaign had been covered so extensively.
The NCGLPI also devised a
training programme for its police officers in what today would be called
diversity training. A leading officer in the NCGLPI was an openly gay Detective
Inspector called Adrian Hanstock. Before I end I think it might be interesting
to cover his career. He was the youngest police officer in the county to reach
this rank at the age of 33. The following year he joined the London
Metropolitan Police and helped to set up a similar campaign down there. He was
responsible for anti-terrorism policing in London when it was awarded the 2012
Olympic Games, and was in command of the police who dealt with the aftermath of
the London bombings the day afterwards. Then he was appointed as Commander of
the London 2012 Transport Policy, responsible for the whole of the “Olympic
routes”. Adrian is currently Deputy Chief Constable of the British Transport
Police, the only national police force in the UK (and, as far as I can tell,
this makes Adrian the highest ranking openly gay police officer ever in the UK).
It wouldn’t be accurate to
claim that the Nottinghamshire police were solely responsible for creating the
current position whereby all police authorities in the UK have proudly flown
the Rainbow Pride flag at various times of the year or now actively participate
in Pride parades (I spent a pleasant 30 minutes chatting with Nottinghamshire’s
Chief Constable on the 2013 Nottinghamshire Pride march). But they can be
claimed as the police force which led the move from initiative to active
I wonder if the current
officers at the police station I can see from my window realise their place in
this country’s lgbt heritage and fight against homophobic crime.