Alex Dunkin examines the role of SA Police's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers.
Recently the SA Police Commissioner Gary Burns rejected calls for SA Police (SAPOL) officers to be permitted to march in uniform for the Adelaide Pride March. Despite this there continues to be support from specially trained Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLO) operating within SAPOL to support LGBT people and issues.
Since 2007, SAPOL has been working to bridge the gaps between the LGBT community and its officers with the introduction of GLLOs. On SAPOL’s website they go as far to acknowledge an element of mistrust has existed between the police and LGBT people which has resulted in many crimes against the community going unreported.
To combat this SAPOL’s equity and diversity division has been working to improve the customer focused approach of SAPOL for the LGBT community.
The GLLOs are spread out across the state and through their training and experiences have become the ideal officer to contact for LGBT issues particularly around hate crime, same-sex relationship domestic abuse, harassment, assaults and beat location issues.
“GLLO officers will not usually investigate the crime, but are available to discuss the incident and facilitate the agreed and most appropriate response to it. All GLLOs are specially selected and trained, and are sensitive to and supportive of GLBTIQ issues,” GLLO member Tamara Schwark told blaze.
“The GLLO network has representatives in metropolitan and country locations and also specialist policing areas including State Crime Prevention Branch, Sexual Crime Investigation Branch and Major Crime Investigation Branch.
“The SAPOL GLLO network is a great way to connect with other agencies and the broader community to show and provide positive support to the GLBTIQ community in relation to crime and policing issues.”
While participating in the Pride March is out of the question for now Schwark explained that there are still many other activities where the GLLO can actively engage with the LGBT community.
“The network also encourages and supports inclusion of the GLBTIQ community through education by assisting at events like IDAHO Day and Picnic in the Park,” she highlighted.
“Being a GLLO helps open up a communication line where not only the community can feel safe discussing sensitive issues but also internally within SAPOL, members can feel confident that discussions and life choices can openly occur without discrimination.”
Part of the liaising work also requires GLLOs to maintain regular knowledge of current and evolving concerns for LGBT people.
“It is important to be up to date with the latest reports in relation to hate crime and homophobia,” Schwark described.
“A close liaison with SAPOL’s Equity and Diversity section and externally with Shine SA and Gay Men’s Health, along with other local support agencies allows up to date knowledge on issues and trends within the community.
“With this support network along with training provided by Pride in Diversity, GLLOs are able to be leaders in GLBTIQ equality and inclusion. All GLLOs have undergone special training in GLBTIQ issues and can provide discreet, non-judgemental guidance and support in the reporting of crimes.”
Within the LGBT community in the past many concerns have been raised about the lack of knowledge and care presented by some SAPOL officers when it comes to dealing with LGBT concerns. GLLO Ian Drummond told blaze that assisting in the reduction of such responses is part of a GLLOs position within SAPOL.
“Regrettably the concern the community seems to mainly raise is the lack of understanding of some police members and call takers,” he said.
“My perception is however, that the involvement of the GLLO members means we are able to address most issues and give advice. This usually has negated the initial poor response.
“That involvement has generally been possible from the information gained at training. As a GLLO member I have been able to promote the role of SAPOL and provide advice to members of the public about SAPOL’s involvement with the GLBTIQ community.”
Strict dress codes with SAPOL means it could be difficult to distinguish between general SAPOL officers and the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers although at certain functions GLLO members are able to wear badges to assist the public in identifying them.
“GLLO members are listed on the SAPOL website and are based in most police Local Service Areas (LSAs),” Drummond added.
“Lists of GLLO members are placed strategically around most police stations giving details of police officers who have completed the GLLO training and are available to help out community members.”
As recently at the 2012 Feast Festival Picnic in the Park there has been a drive to find more officers to be trained as GLLOs.
“I would hope to see an increase in the number of police officers who have completed the training and are available to help members of the Community,” Drummond stated.
(Pictured: GLLOs Tamara Schwark and Ian Drummond. Photo by Alex Dunkin)
To learn more about the GLLO network and how to contact them go to sapolice.sa.gov.au follow the link to Community Services then to Gay & Lesbian Liaison Officers, where you can download a list of over 40 GLLOs spread across SA.