A review has been released that shows homophobic and transphobic threats, jokes and “banter” are still tolerated within the ranks of Victoria Police.
Despite recent improvements, LGBTI officers are still subject to homophobic and transphobic language, sexual harassment and discrimination, according to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report released on Friday.
The force had “made great strides as an organisation, but know that we cannot be satisfied until every employee can go to work as their authentic self,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Lisa Hardeman said.
The report found a lack of trust in internal reporting processes while fears of victimisation, reprisal or being outed hindered officers from making complaints.
Bystanders were also generally unwilling to call out bad behaviour because they feared repercussions.
One Victoria Police employee told the commission “there is still a culture of ‘banter’ within the police force”.
“I am often gobsmacked when members, who know I identify as a gay man, still have no issues using phrases like ‘cocksucker’ and ‘knob jockey’ around me,” he said.
“In the last year I was part of a briefing where an inspector made a throwaway transphobic comment, and the whole room of 100 people laughed at it.”
Another recounted an acting sergeant “telling staff members that he doesn’t like working with fags” and in a separate incident an officer said, “all gays should be gassed in the chamber like the Nazis”.
The Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission interviewed 18 Victoria Police employees and received 32 submissions for the report.
It found the force was moving in the right direction, amid increasingly visible police support for the LGBTI community.
Last February, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton apologised to former and current LGBTI police for the harm they had experienced at work.
The commission has called on Victoria Police to allow employees to record their sexual orientation or gender identity on a voluntary basis so the force could better understand and support officers.
In 2017, a public sector employee survey found five per cent of Victoria Police participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, while another 12 per cent did not want to disclose their sexual orientation.
The force has accepted the commission’s recommendations.
“Homophobic and transphobic language has no place in our organisation. These comments have lasting impacts and everyone has a role to play in calling out these unacceptable behaviours,” Ms Hardeman said.
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