How is the relationship between Police Scotland and the LGBTQI+ community? The report answering this question is part of a study that was funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) as part of the Seldom Heard Voices project designed to provide care for often discriminated communities. These “seldom-heard voices” refer to groups or communities that may be less likely to engage with police for various reasons, such as race, religion, sexuality, disability, or age. In the case of this study, the authors were interested in youth identifying within the LGBTQI+ community and with the additional intersectional criteria of having care experience.
The study adopted a critical-interrogative approach that sought to examine the issue of policing in relation to seldom-heard voices through three avenues of inquiry. The first analysed the overall strategic approach of Police Scotland in terms of policing within various communities. This is a key document for publicly communicating Police Scotland’s overall strategic intent for community-based policing. Therefore, the way in which the report is rhetorically constructed is important to convey the commitment to engage with different sectors of society.
The second research modality was to examine material from police recruit training lessons on the topic of dealing with diverse groups. The objective of the SIPR was to ascertain the nature of what is studied during recruit training and to explore the underlying basis of what is taught in terms of prevailing concepts and ideologies.
The third avenue of the research was to explore what young people say about their experience of coming into contact with police officers. The aim was to establish whether the strategic direction of the Police Scotland’s approach to community policing and the training given to recruits to engage with various groups was reflected in young people, some of whom identified as belonging to the LGBTQI+ community.
The study concludes with a series of recommendations, in which it calls for the overall strategic direction of the police in terms of contact with various groups to be explicitly based on a model of new public governance that recognises and promotes modern policing for the public good. This could entail continuing professional development training based on real-life contexts and associated understanding of the changing nature of society and the role of modern policing.
SIPR recommends that Police Scotland’s approach to police recruit training on inclusion and diversity should focus on real-life hate crime, with respect to types of abuse directed at particular groups. This could involve experienced officers sharing with recruits in training cases on how to deal with these crimes and the difficulties involved in charging offenders.
They also recommend that the approach to policing LGBTQI+ youth should recognise their distrust of police officers regarding boundary issues in interventions. This could involve the adoption of empathetic policing as a viable solution to this problem through further research into how police officers can successfully work with youth to create a safer and more tolerant society.
Finally, they recommend that police officers recognise intersectionality in dealing with diverse groups, especially those with experience in care. A demonstration of this recognition would be to act as a role model by declaring that the care experience is a protected characteristic when it comes to policing in Scotland.