Blog post -
Blog from Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes to mark Pride month
To mark Pride Month 2022, Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes (Specialist Operations) reflects on the changes he has seen over three decades in policing.
When I think back to nearly 30 years ago, I recall starting work in the east end of Sheffield, where LGBT+ pubs and clubs were hidden in industrial side streets. It was hardly a picture of inclusion and from outside, there was little to suggest celebration. I worked with one courageous trans police officer in the mid-1990s and actually remember quite a lot of kind and sensible responses from colleagues. I was not in the Met Police when the terrible bombings of 1999 took place, targeting minority communities in London. But I remember the sense of fear and horror.
And I also remember joy. I remember watching more and more LGBT+ colleagues feeling welcomed and flourishing at work. Smiles and cheers at Pride parades with LGBT+ colleagues and yet also, still, hearing colleagues talk in guarded ways at work about their ‘other half’ rather than talk freely about their same-sex husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend.
In my lifetime, much has changed and some things have not. The relationship between the police and the LGBT+ community was very different back in the 1970s when Pride first arrived in London 50 years ago. Reports from those who attended the first protests talk about friends being too scared to march for fear of being arrested and large numbers of aggressive police.
A few years after the first ever Pride protest, the song “Glad to be Gay” by Tom Robinson rapidly became an anthem for the LGBT+ community with lyrics that talked of police “raiding our pubs for no reason at all”, knocking people down, kicking people on the ground and calling people “queer” (a term which can still cause significant offence even to this day due to its historic abusive use).
June is LGBT+ Pride Month and 2022 sees a key milestone with Pride in London reaching an amazing 50 years. The Met has been there from the beginning and we are working hard with organisers to ensure Pride ‘22 remains a safe, fun celebration. “Glad to be gay” is a reminder though of the history of Pride and its roots in protest against social injustice, of how we used to police the LGBT+ community, of concerns the community still has and why we need to keep working hard to build trust.
Pride has peaceful protest at the heart of its origins and this month many events will reflect that history. Pride month ends on 1st July with the original protest organisers returning to London to re-trace their steps 50 years later, with the main Pride in London event on 2nd July seeing up to a million people return and celebrate, after two years of Covid restrictions.
Much has been achieved since those early days but this is also an important opportunity for reflection. People are at the heart of policing, from my own officer colleagues to the communities we serve, so events like Pride are important. Pride matters to us at the Met because it matters to London. We cannot underestimate the impact policing has had on the LGBT+ community over the last half century and have to remember the international Pride movement started with the Stonewall Riots in New York when police raided the Stonewall Inn. A year later the world’s first Pride protest took place in the USA with London following two years later.
The LGBT+ community has good reason to demand the police do more to restore its trust. Enforcement of now outdated sexual offences legislation often saw LGBT+ communities disproportionately targeted. In the early 80’s, London saw the horrific murders by Dennis Nilsen (a former Special Constable), who targeted young gay men and there was significant criticism of how missing person reports of the victims were handled. Also in the 80’s the LGBT+ community was coming to terms with the tragic impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In 1999 the LGBT+ community was targeted by a right wing extremist who planted a bomb in the Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, killing three and injuring 83. Even in recent times we have to recognise the impact on public trust and confidence following the tragic murders of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor at the hands of Stephen Port. The past and recent experiences of LGBT+ Londoners understandably continue to shape perceptions right now.
We have more to do! Yes, legislation has changed, new rights have established wide ranging protections and society as a whole is far more positive towards LGBT+ people, but we know that too many people still experience homophobia and discrimination – within wider society but also from policing.
After the bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in 1999, a former Met Assistant Commissioner spoke to a crowd of LGBT+ community members and agreed to provide officers who were LGBT+ themselves to be a link to the community and to help take statements from those who felt safer speaking to somebody who was also LGBT+. This evolved over time into the Met’s LGBT+ Liaison Officer scheme and subsequently the LGBT+ Advisors run by the Met's LGBT+ Network - our staff support association.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has recommended that the Met reviews this role in light of the Stephen Port murders and we have committed to take that work forward. Within the organisation, the Crime Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement Command will lead this and we want to ensure existing LGBT+ Advisors and those who may need their advice to support community engagement or investigations are consulted. We will launch a survey during Pride Month where everyone will be invited to give their thoughts on how we evolve this important role.
Over the next month the Met will also focus on the full spectrum of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ to bring Pride Month to life, reflect on some key events over the last 50 years and share the experiences of our own LGBT+ colleagues.
The police have come a long way since the early days of Pride. We have a long way still to go – but we are absolutely committed to supporting our LGBT+ colleagues and our LGBT+ communities.