On the Seta blog, Linnea West, a visiting criminal commissioner and board member of the European LGBT Police Association, writes about a trip to the World Conference in Toronto for the 2nd World LGBT Conference on Criminal Justice Professionals.
In June 2017, the Ombudsman for Equality held a discussion on the status of sexual and gender minorities in the Finnish police. I was invited to speak at the event and told about it based on my own experience and my observations. Representatives of the Police Board and two representatives of the European LGBT Police Association (EGPA) were also present. EGPA is a European umbrella network that advocates for sexual and gender minorities in police organizations. The purpose is to provide information, peer support and to secure an equal status as a police officer.
After the discussion, the idea of establishing a network in Finland was born. I was invited to attend the EGPA conference in Paris in summer 2018 and there I was exceptionally accepted as an individual member of the umbrella organization and became a member of the board. The conference was opened by Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, and was held at the Paris City Hall. The conference was attended by over 200 police officers from 18 countries around the world.
I set up a secret and closed group of rainbow police on Facebook along with a few other police in the summer of 2018. The group provides peer support and disseminates information about gender and sexual minorities. The aim is to promote equality within the police organization as it benefits society as a whole; both in the police organization and in the police. At its best, our network can increase the rainbow community's trust in the police and make hate crime more visible. The next step is to establish a rainbow police association in Finland, and this is already underway. The association was agreed at the first meeting of the rainbow police in Helsinki in spring 2019.
At the Paris Conference, I was invited to the 2nd World LGBT Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals in Toronto, June 19-21, 2019. I attended the EGPA Paris conference at my own cost and also at the March 2019 Annual Meeting held in Barcelona. There I was elected to the board of EGPA. Seta applied for funding for the Toronto Conference from the Department of State, which also provided support and enabled me to participate in the conference with support.
The Toronto Conference Days included joint sessions and optional workshops by participants. The conference had around 200 participants from 15 different countries. The biggest positive surprise was that one of these countries was one from Africa, Zambia. I was also proud that Finland was one of the participating countries. In addition to Finland, the Nordic countries were represented only by Sweden.
At the conference, I met Barbara McLean, Deputy Police Chief, Toronto Police Department.
The opening speech of the conference emphasized leadership when it comes to changing and developing the work culture. The speeches also highlighted how, in a hierarchical organization, high-level officials should be involved in pursuing objectives. However, it is precisely our high-ranking colleagues who may be in the so-called closet because they fear that their careers will be ruined if they are open. It was wonderful to see the Toronto Police Deputy Chief of Police meeting guests with his wife during the gala evening. Majority representatives need to be involved in this important job, which will also make those in the closet more daring to get involved.
In the Netherlands, the rainbow police are organized. I have heard that they have sometimes been asked for help in questioning when a crime has taken place in a rainbow community that, by definition, does not necessarily trust the police. Rainbow cops were involved in boosting confidence in order to provide police with better information for criminal investigations. The Netherlands also has its own "project code" for LGBT-related cases, which makes it easier to report back and the police to develop their activities.
An Australian colleague made a presentation on combating domestic violence, which he himself works on. Intimate partner violence is often seen as a problem of heterosexuality, where the man is the perpetrator and the woman is the victim. The view is generally narrow and does not take into account gender and sexual minorities and violence in their relationships. Staying in the closet may make it more difficult to report the matter to the police. There are many different forms of violence. The threat to “expose” homosexuality to the work community of someone in the closet. An Australian colleague wanted to stress that anyone could be a victim of domestic violence - even the police. This should also be better taken into account in Finland. Even minor assaults are crimes under official prosecution when committed in close relationships. Investigating a close relationship is therefore essential in a preliminary investigation. The crime investigator must therefore be able to create a climate of trust that the crime victim dares to tell about these essential things. It is part of the professionalism of the police.
The conference was filled with the need to share experiences, even for a long time. Those who had left or were pressured by the police for their homosexuality were called to the scene. Their hard experiences touched me deeply. Some former police officers felt an emotional return to the police community, which had lost confidence. These stories were empowering for both the narrator and the listener. Some also told the story of a deceased relative who had lost his family for a second generation. These stories should be brought up in Finland as well, so that we can start on a new healthy basis, where trust is high in the eyes of both police colleagues and citizens.
I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the objectives of the Rainbow Police. Now, however, I would like to thank Seta and the Department of State in particular for allowing me to attend the Toronto World Conference. International networking is essential to gather best practices and practices. It would also be great to see Finnish rainbow police involved in equality work and networking in other countries in the future. We definitely want to be pioneers here and share the good ahead.
Member of the Board of the European LGBT Police Association
The original article in Finnish can be viewed here: https://seta.fi/2019/09/24/sateenkaaripoliisitoimintaa-kehitetaan-suomessa/