Police with homophobic past raise rainbow flag for the first time

Police in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) have raised the rainbow flag  for the first time ever.

The flag will be raised at the Sydney Police Center every day for a week. The rainbow flag will mark the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is one of the world’s biggest LGBTI festivals and an economic boon for Sydney. It wraps up this weekend with the world famous street parade.

The flag raising was a landmark moment because NSW Police has not had a great relationship with the LGBTI community.

In 2016, it apologized to the 78ers – the people who started the first Mardi Gras – for arresting and violently bashing many of them who had taken to the streets of Sydney in a peaceful protest.

Late last year, the NSW Coroner condemned the Force for not properly investigating the suspicious death of Scott Johnson in 1988. Police said he died by suicide but it was eventually ruled that Johnson died in a gay hate crime.

As recently as 2016, four NSW police officers accused the Force of having a culture of homophobia. They believed they were investigated for drugs because of ‘homophobic prejudice’ and discrimination based on their sexuality.

‘A momentous occasion’

The police officer who raised the first rainbow flag is the main liaison on LGBTI issues. He said it was a ‘momentous occasion’ for the Force.

‘We have come a long way and raising the rainbow flag demonstrates the strong relationships we have created and foster with LGBTIQ people and organisations,’ said Tony Crandell, NSW Police Corporate Sponsor for Sexuality, Gender Diversity and Intersex, Assistant Commissioner.

‘It’s important to celebrate diversity and create a supportive environment for people to feel safe, irrespective of sexuality or gender identity.;

Mardi Gras co-chair said the rainbow flag was a very important symbol for the LGBTI community.

‘It is truly a great reflection of the years and years of work that have gone in from the NSW Police Force in becoming a partner… who supports us,’ he said.

NSW Police will once again march in the Mardi Gras parade on Saturday 3 March.

Police raising the flag

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