Redbridge’s ‘hidden’ gay community boosted by police link-up

Redbridge police have joined forces with a new forum for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to improve their relationship with the community.

Specialist officers will draw on the support of the newly formed Redbridge Rainbow Community to engage more closely with the borough’s “hidden” gay community, and change the way the police are viewed by some sections of society.

The LGBT liaison team is also due to meet colleagues from central London, where there is an established and open gay community, to see what they can learn.

Chairman of Redbridge Rainbow Community Rick Patacky said: “Going back 10 or 20 years police had a really bad reputation with gay people, and gay men in particular still remember being victims themselves and being arrested.

“What we are doing now is changing the perception of the police. We want people to know who the police are now and what they can deal with.”

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Five specially trained LGBT liaison officers are working proactively with victims of gay hate crime offences, in an area where the LGBT community is seen as “invisible,” with no clubs, bars or public social events anywhere in the borough.

Pc Anton Brown said: “There used to be gay venues in Redbridge but they have gone now, so our community is pretty invisible.

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“As a gay man who has lived in Redbridge all my life I have never been out around here – we always jump on a train and go to the West End.

“If there was a social event locally that would be a good start.”

Mr Brown, who marched side-by-side with fellow officers at the last Gay Pride March in London, added: “There are a lot of gay people in Redbridge but if they don’t feel supported by police and the community they won’t feel comfortable to show it.”

Fortunately, according to Insp Dave Brewster, partnerships inspector at Redbridge Police, incidents of gay hate crime within the borough is very low, one every few months, so his officers have been looking at other ways they can support the community.

They regularly search the databases of neighbouring boroughs, and central London, to see if they can be of any help to victims of homophobic crime there who are from Redbridge.

Insp Dave Brewster said: “The liaison officers will advise the investigating officer on sensitivities and are in touch with the LGBT community.

“We want people to know that they can come out and there will be people, and a police team, around to support them.”

He added: “Those from the LGBT community often experience huge amounts of prejudice, disrespect, as with all areas of policing, we rely on the information on which to act.”

Sgt Steve Beyler, who has been in the role for nine months, said: “It’s important to realise that you don’t have to be gay to do this role, it can be people from all different backgrounds.

“We have been looking at areas where there is a far more visible gay community, like around the West End, and we have been working closely with them, and will be going to meet them next month.”

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