Here’s how to remedy that & reset relations with LGBT+ community
By Peter Tatchell
London, UK – 14 December 2021
Published in The Guardian under the title: The Met says it is not homophobic, but it is. Here’s how it can address that http://ow.ly/PGWR50HaqhR
LGBTQ+ trust and confidence in the police has been hammered by the inquest verdict on the serial killings committed by Stephen Port. It found that police errors “probably” contributed to the deaths of three young gay men.
Within the LGBTQ+ community there is shock, anger and a sense of betrayal by the Met police, especially given the evidence of homophobic responses by some officers involved in the Port investigation.
Many of us believe they should face disciplinary action and that the Met must now acknowledge its institutional homophobia – and fix it. Until that happens, police in uniform should be barred from Pride parades.
Right now, a frank official appraisal of what the Met got wrong and an on plan to put it right seem a long way off. MPs have called for an inquiry into police failures to stop Port and into whether homophobia was a factor in the bungled investigations. But policing minister, Kit Malthouse, turned down that request.
The way the police botched their inquiries and made a series of biased and prejudiced assumptions about gay men has parallels with their behaviour in the Stephen Lawrence case, which led to Sir William Macpherson’s landmark report declaring the police to be institutionally racist.
A similar charge of institutional homophobia can be applied to the way the police mishandled the Port case and previous gay serial killings. Yet the Met ignores the evidence and rejects any allegation that it is institutionally homophobic.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy admitted at the inquest that there had been a “serious failure of policing” but said lessons have been learned: the Met has been reorganised to ensure more “resilience” in its investigations.
We’ve heard similar assurances before. Mistakes in the Stephen Port case echo previous failings by officers following the multiple murders of gay men by Dennis Nilsen in the 1970s, Michael Lupo in the 1980s and Colin Ireland in the 1990s.
In each of these three cases, the Met assured the LGBTQ+ community that they had learned from their errors and that sub-standard investigations would not be repeated.
But then came the Port murders, with police investigators who were, according the inquest evidence, incompetent, negligent and unprofessional. I believe some were also homophobic. Every gay person who expressed concerns that the deaths might have been murders was ignored, dismissed and treated with contempt by the police.
Contradicting Met pledges after previous killings of gay men, for over a year officers made no public appeals for help and gave no warnings to the LGBTQ+ community. There was no liaison with LGBTQ+ organisations or the gay press.
When John Pape, a friend of murder victim Gabriel Kovari, Pink News and the gay hate crime charity, Galop UK, contacted the police in late 2014, after the third murder, they were told that the deaths were not related and there was no foul play or serial killer.
The police reject the accusation of homophobia. But look at the way they treated the gay partners, ex-lovers and friends of the murdered men. Ricky Waumsley, the partner of murder victim Daniel Whitworth for four years, was excluded from police discussions with the insulting put down: “you are not next of kin.” Ricky says he was treated this way because “we were a gay unmarried couple.”
Thierry Amodio, Gabriel Kovari’s ex-partner of three years, repeatedly contacted the police. But officers never took a statement. Instead, they disparaged his inquiries as “fishing for information.” In fact, Amodio had information that would have led police to Port and probably prevented his third and fourth murders.
Despite all the furore, none of the officers accused of homophobia and investigative failings have been disciplined. Indeed, all but one of the 17 officers who were the subject of an inquiry by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) were uncooperative and replied with ‘no comment’ when questioned. The upshot was that not a single officer was referred for misconduct charges by the IOPC. Instead, five of the criticised officers have been rewarded with promotion and a pay rise.
So what should happen next? Given the inquest verdict, I hope the IOPC will reopen the case and reconsider whether misconduct charges should be pursued against some of the officers. If found guilty, at the very least they should be demoted, have their pay docked and be required to participate in LGBT+ awareness education and crime investigation retraining.
While there are plenty of good officers, police understanding of LGBTQ+ issues and liaison with LGBTQ+ communities is still patchy. That’s why the LGBT+ Independent Advisory Group to the Met and the National LGBT+ Police Network need to be empowered with better resources, direct access to Met policy-making and participation from the outset in murder inquiries involving LGBTQ+ victims.
The buck stops with the Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick. She has expressed regrets but denied that her force is institutionally homophobic and initiated no action against the officers found by the IOPC to have conducted sub-standard investigations. No wonder some people are calling for her resignation. LGBTQ+ confidence in her leadership is at rock bottom. It is unlikely to revive until she has a change of heart.