Working with the Police
At Nottinghamshire Pride this year I got talking to the staff at the police stall and learned about their Key Individual Network (KIN). This network is a system where the reps/staff members/equality officers/leaders etc. of minority groups can sign up to be the main point of contact for the police for their group or organisation. The police then have a network to distribute important information directly to the community and receive feedback. We have a main point of contact for the police regarding any LGBT issues and for reporting hate crime. I signed myself up for BiTopia, and was really impressed at how friendly and easy to talk to they were.
Tonight I went along to what I thought was a KIN meeting. I was a bit shy and nervous, and blushed when I spoke, as everyone there seemed to be some kind of working professional. There were people from the police, the NHS and “proper” LGBT groups such as Outburst. (By “proper” I mean they are not run informally by one person from their bedroom!) So I felt like I didn’t really belong there. However this meeting was a really interesting opportunity for me to see what work the police are doing for LGBT people in Nottingham. I also tried to network and get contact information for the other attendees. One of the things discussed in the meeting was a future anti hate crime campaign for the city, and I even had the chance to give feedback on their draft campaign posters! This was quite an astonishing moment for me. Imagine, a lowly unimportant citizen such as myself, reminding key police staff to use bisexual inclusive language on their campaign posters and social media sites!
Towards the end of the meeting it turned out that we were not there for KIN at all, but for an LGBT Community Meeting for the city division of the police. I had been put on the mailing list for it without realising when I signed up to be a key individual. I learned that the meeting is held quarterly and that anyone from the public can go and speak with the police, ask questions, get information and give feedback. How amazing is it that this exists!? How sad that barely anyone seems to know about it. Indeed some other issues raised tonight were the confusion between the KIN and LGBT Community meetings, and also the lack of people attending.
Tonight gave me a lot of ideas for bi activism and for working with the police to improve communication and collaboration with the LGBT community:
- We could compile a list of contacts and places to advertise the LGBT Community meetings and pass them on to the police. (If people consent!)
- We can advertise the next meeting on the 13th January and encourage LGBT people to attend.
- When someone said the police would like more feedback about their campaigns/materials, I offered to help.
E.g. Show their mock posters to members of BiTopia, collect feedback and let the police know what we like/dislike about them.
Another attendee invited me to speak about bisexuality and bisexual issues at police training days!
Crikey. To think all of this happened because I accidentally went to the wrong meeting!
Which brings me to my final point. One thing that I realised tonight was that ordinary people like me can make a difference. You don’t have to be a professional or super human being. You just need to be a bit more aware of what’s happening in your community. Do a bit of digging, find out what’s going on and what’s being offered. See who you can work with. Get involved. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Know that your opinions and experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s.
Don’t do nothing.
You never know what might happen when you do something.
I grew up scared of the police. I never would have considered going to them with an LGBT issue or to report a hate crime. I would have assumed they would be disgusted by me or laugh at me or tell me to run along now. I never thought they were bothered about bisexuals. Since Pride, I now know that the police are putting a lot of time, effort and money into tackling hate crime, supporting LGBT people and engaging with us. Tonight I’ve learned that there are some wonderful people in the force. Some who do their LGBT work on top of their full time policing duties. And these people do care about bi folks like us. : )