Why supporting LGBT+ History Month isn't 'virtue signalling'
Last week saw a rainbow flag raised at HG and Gablecross to signify my, and the Force’s, support for this annual celebration of the LGBT+ community.
It’s not unusual for there to be mixed comments as soon as I, or Wiltshire Police, comment on LGBT+ festivities. Many people are supportive and understand the importance but many – and I am always amazed by just how many – accuse us of ‘virtue signalling’ and that we should ‘focus on policing’.
Wiltshire is a diverse community and it is vital that our officers and staff reflect the communities they serve. By continuing to build community relationships and diversifying our workforce, we will continue to represent you.
Policing is so much more than just ‘crime’. The Force polices by consent and that consent means there is a trust between our communities and us. It is vital that the trust is between all. If we didn’t have that trust, crimes wouldn’t be reported and people would be fearful.
There are also the small minority of comments that border on hate speech. Where we see that happening, it will be investigated.
Hatred has no place in our modern society and Wiltshire Police operate a zero-tolerance approach to hate crime. And that is exactly how it should be.
For most people, hate crime is difficult to understand. That one person can be so hateful to another - being verbally or physically abusive towards them, threatening and intimidating them simply because they are seen as different - is beyond most people's comprehension. It is the minority that do this.
Sadly, hate crime is not something that happens elsewhere. It happens here in Wiltshire, in our towns, in our communities, to our neighbours, our friends, and our colleagues. As individuals, and as a community, we should be respectful and embracing of each other's differences and the diversity they bring.
Just 30 years ago, many in the LGBT+ community lived in fear, lived with shame and lived lives that were not accepted by many.
As a society, we have come so far in terms of acceptance, education and awareness. We should all be free to be who we want to be, live how we want without fear, hatred and prejudice – no matter their gender or sexual orientation.
As an employer, Wiltshire Police is inclusive and committed to becoming more reflective of its community. The Force actively promotes equality, has rainbow epaulettes for staff to wear should they so wish, and has an active LGBT+ network for staff to join. The Force is also well represented at PRIDE marches and works closely with partner agency Stonewall.
Our county still remains one of the safest places to live in, but we need to make sure it is a safe place for everyone. And it doesn’t mean that we stop talking about it because it isn’t an issue to us. Together as the community of Swindon and Wiltshire we need to stand up to hate crime, to report it if we see it and support and encourage those who experience it to do the same.
I am proud that, on the whole, Wiltshire has embraced this. Only by continuing to raise awareness will we educate people on these important matters and effect change.