About Detective Chief Superintendent Clinton Blackburn
I joined policing in 1992 when there were no visible gay role models.
Back then policing was very macho which made it hard to be myself, so I decided to spend the first ten years hiding who I really was from family, friends and colleagues – simply through fear of rejection and ridicule.
At the time I worked in a country force and colleagues would think nothing of popping in for a cuppa whilst out on patrol. I can still recall my partner going over the garden fence to avoid being seen. This was a crossroads for me and I decided enough was enough and got a job with Virgin Airlines. But at the last minute I changed my mind and refused to throw a job I loved down the drain. I transferred to a London force, bit the bullet and came out at the age of 32.
Since that day I have never looked back. I stopped isolating myself and began to get promoted and succeed in my career. Over the following 17 years I moved from PC to Chief Superintendent; I know that being able to be myself played a huge part in my success.
When I started to lead teams I began to spot others out there facing a similar struggle. I realised that if I had met someone like me earlier, it would have given me the courage to be myself at work. So I decided to step up to the mark and help others.
As a result I have contributed to running several support networks, introduced HIV+ SPOCS, represented the SE of England for the National LGBT+ Network, elected LGBT+ Reserve Member for the Police Superintendents’ Association, brought in a trans tool kit, and now co-chair the National LGBT+ Police Network. We still have some way to go, especially for trans and bi colleagues, but we are on a journey of progress. I am now pushing hard to make sure we leave a legacy in policing so LGBT+ staff can feel themselves and the LGBT+ community can come forward to report crime and seek help.
If I were to give one piece of advice for anyone considering coming out, it would be to just do it. If you are worried speak to an ally or a LGBT+ colleague and make sure you have support in place, but you will be surprised just how rewarding it is to take that leap of faith.
About Detective Constable Tracy O'Hara QPM
I am Tracy O’Hara and I Co-Chair the National Network.
I am a Detective Constable in Merseyside and this is my 24th year in policing. In the main I have worked in investigations across all areas of crime and most recently as the force’s liaison officer for crimes against sex workers. I began my career in uniform working in Liverpool city centre, which gave me an insight into serious crimes and made me know I had to become a detective.
I became involved in Merseyside Police’s LGBT+ Network around 2001 when I arrived at a crossroads in my career. The options were leave or stay. It was a tough work environment and I did not feel able to be myself; it was not okay to be gay and it was tough enough being a woman. I got tired of hiding who I was, who I was with and what I did at weekends – so I thought, leave, it’s the only option.
I spoke to my confidante – my trainer from Bruche (the police training school) – who told me: “Stay and change it from within. You cannot change it if you are not in it, go meet the gay police network”. So I did, and a new world opened up to me.
I became more involved and began as chair not long after. This kept me in the career I love – this is why I do what I do now as co-chair of this network of networks.
I still have that passion to change from within. I have seen many changes, some I never dreamt possible – marriage, pension and adoption rights, parenting, and such wonderful participation at community events, especially at local prides. The most satisfying though is those joining feeling able to be themselves. What a difference this makes to not just the person but to their police service. We are better motivated, we are driven and we stay in work when we can be ourselves. It is incumbent on all of us to create that environment for us all to flourish – and I mean all.
I aspire to be that person I needed when I was young and I will continue to be that person for others.
Tracy received the BAWP Officer of the Year award in 2009 followed by the International Officer of the Year award in the same year. In 2017, Tracy was awarded the Queens Police Medal for services to LGBT+ matters within policing.
About Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock
I am a uniformed Inspector at Greater Manchester Police and have previously worked within a neighbourhood policing capacity. This involved covering the village area of Manchester city centre which has one of the most vibrant LGBT+ night time economy areas in the country, famous for Canal Street and also home to a number of LGBT+ community organisations and charities.
I had socialised for years in LGBT+ spaces and particularly in the village area of Manchester and always considered the area to be a safe and welcoming space. It was when working in and around the village that I saw the issues of targeted hate and discrimination still used against members of the LGBT+ community. I became increasingly passionate and determined to improve how GMP tackled LGBT+ issues and to improve the relationship between the LGBT+ community and the police in Greater Manchester and beyond.
I joined the Gay Police Association and the internal staff network in 2005 and that year marched for the first time at Manchester Pride. I continued to join the Police With Pride team at Manchester Pride but did not get actively involved in the network until 2011 when I was approached by a colleague who was suffering from LGBT+ bullying and discrimination from his shift. At that time the Gay Police Association was no longer functioning or providing support to colleagues, and our internal staff network had stalled due to its founder Julie Barnes-Frank having retired.
I wasn’t prepared to accept anyone within the police being subject to any form of bullying and discrimination, and it is fair to say that this really ignited the fire within to ensure that this was challenged at all levels and staff felt supported.
I was elected as chair of the network and I refreshed and relaunched the network as the GMP Pride Network, it previously being called LAGSA (Lesbian And Gay Staff Affiliation). I felt that it was the right time for the network to move towards being more LGBT+ inclusive – the feedback from some LGBT+ colleagues had been that they did not feel the network supported or represented them.
The support I received when refreshing our network from my colleagues in our region (the North West) was amazing and I have made some lifetime friends as a result. The working relationship that was active in the North West as the ‘Police with Pride’ team helped to inspire and create the new structure and organisation we have now as the National LGBT+ Police Network.
I am really proud of how we have progressed both within the force and nationally. In GMP I am particularly proud of some of the firsts we have achieved, including the launch of the world’s first rainbow liveried police car.
At a national level it is so inspiring to work alongside some amazing people within forces that are determined to improve the lives of LGBT+ people.
Lee is also a trustee of the LGBT Foundation in Manchester and an LGBT+ advisor to the Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham.
About Constable Al Smith
I’m a Police Constable with West Midlands Police, which I joined in 1998 because it was one of the few forces at the time that included sexual orientation in its equal opportunities statement. I’m an intelligence officer – a role I’d describe as supporting my colleagues to work smarter rather than harder to deliver intelligence-led policing.
I’ve been a member of my local LGBT+ staff network since I joined and am currently my force’s lead for gender identity, as well the network’s lead for trans matters. I was previously part of the executive committee of the National Trans Police Association since its formation in 2010 until it merged with the National LGBT+ Network in 2019, so this has helped for a smooth changeover.
I started my transition in 2007 and encountered various hurdles along the way, so the work I do is to ensure others have a smoother transition in the workplace. These hurdles weren’t intended, but there was a lack of embedding trans equality because it was perceived to only affect a small minority of people, despite the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations being introduced in 1999 and amended in 2008. It’s now been 10 years since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, with its accompanying public sector equality duty to eliminate discrimination, to advance equality of opportunities and foster good relations. The current recruitment drive of police officers offers the police service a great opportunity to really deliver on this duty; to promote itself as an employer of choice for trans individuals who want to serve their community and make a difference.
My work also includes raising awareness across forces as to the main concerns of trans communities, which are not complicated and are on par with those of anyone: being treated in a respectful manner, so addressed by their correct name and pronoun, as well as sensitive information related to their gender identity being treated confidentially. I’d really like to see statutory anonymity that’s already in place for victims of serious sexual assaults extended to victims of LGBT+ hate crime, to remove one of the main barriers to reporting.
The current government’s LGBT+ action plan will also have an impact on forces, for example, in its areas relating to safety, workplace, rights and the law and data monitoring. There is much to be positive about despite the current tenor of public debate concerning those who are trans.