Former DCI Louise Fleckney reflects on the “rainbow strides” made by the police in dealing with same-sex domestic abuse over the last 20 years
BY LOUISE FLECKNEY
In a police career spanning nearly two decades, I have seen the full range with which domestic abuse can present itself. From low-level verbal arguments – the stuff of most relationships – through to domestic homicide, and putting a protection plan in place to prevent a family destruction.
I have also seen responses across all services change and develop, measure and understand risk and complexity, provide victim-based services and joined up delivery. It was not unheard of 20 years ago for the police to pick up a perpetrator, drop them off several miles from the address of the offence, knowing it would take them some hours to get back there, and consider a “Detected No Prosecution”, a kind of statistical victory where a victim would not co-operate in a prosecution.
Response cop heuristics perpetuated this minimal paperwork response. It did nothing really to protect the victim, reduce harm, or consider the wider picture of harm to children. There was no understanding of forced marriage, honour-based violence or LGBTQI relationship issues.
Twenty years ago, there was also a series of hate-inspired bombings in London. David Copeland set explosives in Brixton Market, Brick Lane and the Admiral Duncan pub, in a racist and homophobic set of attacks. The Met at the time were hugely distrusted by the LGBTQI community, and it was only after deploying gay officers to engender trust that the community began to open up.
This certainly provoked some self-reflection within the service, and a national database of Faith, Language and Culture was created, where officers and staff could record if they belonged to a particular group and could be deployed in such instances to help communities see their own identity reflected. It was with some trepidation that I added myself to the database, both for language skills but also my queer identity.
There has been a natural hostility from the LGBTQI community because of police behaviour. Gay and lesbian officers within the service encountered overt homophobia. It is small wonder that a crime of intimacy would be hugely underreported.
From my own relationship history, I am aware of previous partners who have been victims of physical abuse, controlling behaviour and sexual violence. The community knows that the same range of abuse, from shouting through to homicide, affects us as much as any sexual identity. Straight people don’t get a monopoly on being shitty people. But the gay community has doubtless had a poorer service, as have various different communities.
Huge rainbow strides have been made during my service. My home force started as one that refused to let officers march in uniform at Pride, and that refused a gay officer dependant’s leave when their partner miscarried because “you’re not married”. It has become one that flies the rainbow flag at their headquarters and tries hard (though not always successfully) to understand diversity as a strength.
The service provided externally has also transformed. Piecemeal legislation over the first decade of this century has been the legal stick, and better community relationships the carrot. They’ve come a long way since a clumsily worded Powerpoint suggested gay people might not like to “admit” they are gay to an officer. “The police are the public and the public are the police” was Peel’s vision.
If you are the victim of domestic abuse, whatever form that abuse takes, don’t be afraid to report it because of your sexuality. You should and can expect to be treated with dignity and respect, empathy and understanding.
You are not alone. You stand alongside victims of abuse from all walks of life, all sexualities, genders and races. You make up the bright, vibrant communities across this country. You can take steps to make things safer, and you will find that, unlike 20 years ago, your sexuality is the last thing on a professional’s mind. Your safety and wellbeing are the first.
Louise Fleckney is gay mum of two. A police officer for 18 and a half years, finishing as a DCI in Intelligence, she is currently director of training at Cybersapience, a company offering bespoke training on cyber threats, resilience and cyber psychology.
Have you experienced domestic abuse? Contact the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse helpline on 0800 999 5428 or visit galop.org.uk.
Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of DIVA magazine or its publishers.
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