Updated: Apr 3
original article by David Lopez and published on the website of the European Commission.
FLAG! is an association with no political, trade union or mutual company affiliations, whose objective is to fight against all forms of discrimination against LGBT(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people within the Ministries of Justice and the Interior. It also aims to support victims within the penal system and to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and LGBT victims. FLAG organises training to raise awareness in police schools to improve professional practices. FLAG is a member of the European organisation "EUROPEAN LGBT POLICE ASSOCIATION", itself a member of the NGO Committee within the Council of Europe.
I interviewed Johan CAVIROT, President of the association. He is a senior engineer of information and communication systems at the central directorate of the border police, reservist of the French gendarmerie. Within these institutions, he has knowledge of the three main sectors of the Ministry of the Interior. He provides training at the Ministry and, as such, he knows and practices various methods of adult education.
1. In the training courses organised by FLAG, you are addressing people in vocational training. The content dealt with is clear. But in terms of skills, what would your team like to see achieved? Social skills, knowledge, cross-disciplinary skills (ability to listen, empathise, etc.).
During these sessions, we have several objectives. First of all, we aim to improve the knowledge of student police and law enforcement officers of the LGBT+ community and what is behind these letters, beyond prejudices and preconceived ideas, the specific vocabulary. We also highlight the particular fragility of these victims in view of their isolation from friends and family. Indeed, suicide is much more common among the LGBT community following an LGBT-phobic assault (60% have suicidal thoughts within a year of the assault compared to 5% for a heterosexual person who has experienced the same level of violence).
In order to address these sensitivities, it is important that officers show that they are listening and demonstrate reinforced empathy so that the victim feels that they are not being judged, and can be and confident enough to discuss intimate subjects. This is an issue which cannot be dealt with in the same way as a stolen telephone or graffiti on the front of a house.
It is also important for law enforcement officers to know how to correctly characterise, in the judicial sense, the assault suffered in order to identify the right aggravating circumstances and the elements which will then enable the public prosecutor's office to make the right decisions.
The police are really the first links in the care of victims and if this goes wrong the consequences on the victim can be tragic.
The public authorities are fully aware of the urgency of this matter. Moreover, the new government plan to combat LGBT phobia calls for the reinforcement of this awareness among the workforce and in particular, from the initial training stage. The training courses also provide an opportunity to reflect on identity and gender.
2. Do trainees receive recognition for their participation? A certificate? Is it useful for their career?
There is no special recognition in the form of a diploma or certificate, however, during their exams, a question may relate to this theme and they will have to answer it correctly in order to succeed in their training to become a police officer.
This training may never serve them during their career, but it only takes one poorly cared for victim to result in a human tragedy.
3. Other associations like FLAG exist in Europe. On the issue of training, are there exchanges and meetings? Do you share methods and tools?
Absolutely. Exchanges take place through the European LGBT Police Association, of which FLAG! is a founding member. This association brings together all European associations equivalent to FLAG! During the working meetings, training is a subject in its own right, because beyond the care of victims this also contributes to the fight against LGBT phobia that may be present within institutions or in the entourage of police officers.
4. What tools are generally used? Written documents? Digital? On-line training? MOOCs?
We use a PowerPoint to conduct the training and then give each student a FLAG! Document outlining the 61 offences with an aggravating circumstance related to sexual orientation and gender identity. We have also released a FLAG! mobile application(link is external),(link is external) which allows you to consult these offences from your phone. FLAG! ensures that it is updated in line with legislative developments.
We do not yet have distance learning as this issue requires exchange with the trainees. Not everyone has the same history, the same prejudices on this subject, which is closely tied with intimacy, love and sexual attraction.
To conclude, Johan CAVIROT adds: “We work in initial training, but there are already 250,000 police officers in the field who will be difficult to train quickly on these subjects. FLAG! would like to see an increase in the number of liaison officer appointments, as is the case in Paris. This workforce is not only perfectly trained, but also has the capacity, since it is a full-time job, to maintain a watch and thus provide continuous training on these issues. It is a valuable resource for all police officers already working".
We also agree that this initial training can also become a basis for further training and above all that it could be transferred to other professions such as teachers, medical or educational staff, and more.
Interview by David LOPEZ, EPALE France ambassador.