Government releases response to Mardi Gras policing reforms
The government has released its response to questions raised by Sydney MP Alex Greenwich during Question Time last year, regarding the LGBTI community’s concerns of intimidating, homophobic and excessive policing during Mardi Gras.
Greenwich asked amongst others things, what action the government planned to undertake to ensure better management of future Mardi Gras festivals; what work has been done to raise LGBTI cultural awareness and competency training within the Policing community; what commitment the government had to the existing Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer (GLLO) program; what efforts had been made to ensure drug dog use and strip searches were carried out in a lawful manner and how would the government ensure the reputation of future Mardi Gras festivals had not been damaged by incidents that occurred in 2013.
The government has responded that the extensive community consultation has been ongoing fin respect of the 2014 event with the Department of Premier and Cabinet convening whole of government planning meetings for the Mardi Gras Parade.
According to the response, “Planning meetings include representatives of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, NSW Police and stakeholders such as City of Sydney Council and the Transport Management Centre.
On the day of the parade, representatives of NSW Government agencies along with a representative from Mardi Gras, oversee management of the Parade from the NSW Police Operations Centre.”
For the 2014 event Local Area Command and Major Events and Incidents Group Commanders are consulting and working closely with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Organising Committee.
“Police are working with the Mardi Gras Organising Committee to develop appropriate briefing material for officers deployed to festival events and the CEO of Mardi Gras 2014 will address police during the final pre-festival deployment briefing.”
In regards to the NSW Police Force ongoing commitment to provide a police force that is fully briefed on sexuality and gender diversity, the paper reaffirmed a commitment to working to gain a better understanding of LGBTIQ issues.
“LGBTIQ specific cultural training is provided to all student police officers prior to attestation and the LGBTIQ Corporate Spokesperson is working with Mardi Gras and other community representatives to enhance and expand training material in this area for wide circulation to all ranks within the NSW Police Force.”
The paper also confirmed the NSW Police Force commitment to the GLLO program and said Region Sponsors for Sexuality and Gender Diversity have been appointed in all police Regions and will provide support to the GLLO network at a regional level. At present there are approximately 200 police GLLO across NSW.
“Their primary focus is to improve the capacity of officers within their commands to work effectively with communities in response to key issues such as prejudice related violence, domestic violence in same sex relationships and challenging homophobic bullying in schools.”
In regards to drug dog operations at Mardi Gras the paper said a senior police officer will be on hand to ensure officers exercising search powers appropriately and that people being searched understand their rights and obligations in terms of compliance.
“Searches will be conducted in enclosed search areas in a manner that takes into account issues such as privacy and gender sensitivity. Police uniforms are an operational matter for the NSW Police Force. Appropriate uniforms allow police officers to be easily identified during an event.”
In order that party-goers and overseas vistors can be better appraised of their rights the LGBTIQ Corporate Spokesperson, Superintendant Tony Crandell, and officers from Surry Hills Local Area Command have been working with the Inner City Legal Centre and ACON's Anti Violence Project in relation to the publication of joint advice regarding legislation, individual rights and behavioural expectations for visitors and all those involved in Mardi Gras festival events.”