Polis Aperta, Italy's LGBT Police Association, in conjunction with the European Gay Police Association, held its „10th Anniversary Conference‟ in Turin. The event was a significant achievement for the group which attracted considerable media attention. This was the first time that an LGBT police conference has been held in Italy involving senior members of the Italian police, government and police trade unions. Board members of the European Gay Police Association (EGPA) also attended.
The conference had two main themes:
1. “Trade unions and police employers: joining forces for inclusion and equality of LGBT police employees”;
2. “Community and security: combating homophobia and transphobia with the help of police forces”. The conference highlighted inequality that still exists within Italy particularly the Italian police. It soon became clear that in comparison to other European countries, Italy was struggling to advance the equal rights of LGBT people with politics and religion major barriers. The police appear to suffer from a culture reminiscent of “Life On Mars”. Part of the problem also stems from a lack of government legislation when it comes to tackling hate crime. What legislation does exist is not always effectively used by either the police or prosecutors. There were however some very positive and progressive initiatives taking place in the City of Turin helped by partnerships formed between the LGBT community and local LGBT officers. These include Third Party reporting options and 'one to one' support offered by officers in the city.
Disappointingly this local work was not reflective of Italy as a whole. Examples of extreme homophobic hatred in cities such as Rome were spoken about. This was quite concerning and something you would not expect in a city like Rome, a city visited by many LGBT people from the UK every year. What was clear from the conference was the appetite for change within Italy, not least through the efforts of Polis Aperta. Their growing membership has increased its visibility within the workplace (the conference being an example of this).Discriminatory behaviour is now being challenged and police leaders are proactively working with the association in order to effect change. With the support of the Italian police forces, Polis Aperta are undertaking training for student officers on LGBT issues, educating young people in schools and lobbing politicians to influence legislative changes. It will be a slow process to change culture and attitudes, not only within the police but the general population in what is a deeply religious country. During the conference,
Polis Aperta expressed their thanks to the EGPA for supporting the association‟s work. The exchange of best practice between EGPA members is invaluable for countries such as Italy, struggling to deal with institutionalised practices. The advancement of LGBT rights in counties such as the UK, Holland and Norway, to name but a few, provided great inspiration and direction for members. The more fortunate countries should take note of the work of Polis Aperta. The engagement they are currently undertaking highlights the importance of not becoming complacent.