More than 90 officers around the country have received additional training, allowing them to better support the LGBTI community according to the force.
The training was delivered by Edinburgh-based Equality Network on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, part of a programme of similar work delivered in England and Wales.
The announcement comes during Hate Crime Awareness Week when organisations are helping the public understand what constitutes a hate crime and how to report it. A hate crime is usually a crime which is ‘aggravated’ due to a factor such as a victims perceived or actual sexuality, race, disability, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Chief Constable Phil Gormley said there is no place for hate crime in Scotland:
“Tackling all forms of hate crime remains an absolute priority for Police Scotland. Every incident has a significant impact on the victim, their families and wider community. Hate crime can manifest itself in lots of different ways, for example, with offensive graffiti, having your property vandalised, having your belongings stolen, people swearing or making abusive remarks making you feel intimidated or harassed, through online abuse, feeling threatened or being physically attacked. All of this behaviour is completely unacceptable.”
Police Scotland has over 17,000 officers (at 30th June 2016) spread across the country and although new recruits receive equality and diversity modules during their basic training, this is thought to be one of the first commitments to a national network of specific LGBTI Liaison Officers.
Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said:
“We were happy to provide training on LGBTI hate crime issues to nearly 100 officers across Scotland, and it’s great to see that Police Scotland have now set up a national network of Liaison Officers. This will help LGBTI people have the confidence to report hate incidents to the police, and will mean that there should always be an officer they can make contact with who has an understanding of LGBTI issues.”
In a statement to Pink Saltire, Police Scotland have confirmed their intention to continue to work with Equality Network and seek funding opportunities to allow these newly trained officers to roll out training and awareness to colleagues in each Division in Scotland.
The latest figures, released in June 2016, show that hate crimes aggravated by sexual orientation increased by 20% in the past year. There were 1,020 charges reported to the Procurator Fiscal service for the period 2015-16, making it the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland, behind racism. Court proceedings were commenced in 91% of all charges of hate crimes with a sexual orientation factor.
Research by the Equality Network and other LGBT organisations suggests that hate crime still goes under reported by victims and it’s hoped that the new network of Liaison Officers will give the community greater confidence in reporting crime.