The Metropolitan police have said its officers will not march in uniform at Pride in London after LGBTQ+ campaigners voiced concern about “institutional homophobia” within the force.
Scotland Yard said on Friday that officers who wish to join the celebrations should do so in civilian clothes rather than police uniform after listening to the “legitimate concerns” of activists.
Uniformed officers will still police the annual parade, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Saturday with performances by the American singer-songwriter Ava Max and the British star Emeli Sandé.
The decision comes after the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell raised concern about the Met’s “homophobic” handling of the investigation into the serial killer Stephen Port. Tatchell said the case showed that “institutional homophobia is alive and kicking in the Metropolitan police” and that it would not be right for uniformed officers to march in the parade.
According to Guardian, the official organisers of Pride in London later said the police uniform “undermines” the balance between listening to the concerns of members and being as welcoming as possible.
An inquest jury found in December that fundamental failings in the Port investigation “probably” contributed to three of the four deaths.
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Officers failed to link the deaths between June 2014 and September 2015, despite striking similarities and the fact that three of the men were found in St Margaret’s churchyard, Barking, yards from Port’s home, while the fourth was found outside his flat. The independent police watchdog recently announced it was reinvestigating the Met over the case.
Speaking after the Scotland Yard announcement on Friday, Tatchell said: “This is the right decision given community concerns about police homophobia, racism and misogyny. I hope other Prides across the UK will follow suit and secure the agreement of the police to not march in uniform.”
The move follows an open letter, organised by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, calling for an end to not only police taking part in the parade but also patrolling the march.
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Sam Björn, a spokesperson for Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, said: “This step from Pride in London may well be welcome, but it is not – by any measure – what we have been asking for.
“The Metropolitan Police force is rotten to the core and violent beyond reform. There is no place at a truly inclusive Pride for its members, uniformed or plainclothed, whatever their sexuality.”
Matt Jukes, assistant commissioner of the Met, said: “I understand the concerns people have about the Met taking part in London’s Pride march. Everyone who is going to be in the parade has asked to be part of Pride as a member of our LGBT+ staff network.
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“I know that we have to work hard, with and for many LGBT+ Londoners to win back their trust. Amongst my LGBT+ colleagues taking part in Pride are people who have their own experiences of exclusion and prejudice. Despite the challenges some have faced individually, they want to be part of building a Met that all of London can be proud of.”
Jukes said Pride was an opportunity for LGBT+ members of the police to feel included in a wider community and that they would represent a staff network that has “supported and challenged the Met to be more inclusive”.
He added: “I hope they will feel supported at the event at the same time as the Met as an organisation is determined to listen and respond to the concerns of LGBT+ individuals and organisations.”