Staffordshire Police has helped the British law enforcement sector overcome previous allegations of institutional homophobia by becoming the nation’s top gay-friendly employer.
The force that encourages gay officers to go on marches, take parenting leave and organise parties with local homosexual groups was ranked first in the Workplace Equality Index, compiled by gay activist charity, Stonewall.
Less than 10 years ago Staffordshire police, which this week will be named winners of the award, were criticised for an operation to spy through peepholes on men “cottaging” in public conveniences in Stoke.
Relations with the gay community reached a low point when 21 men, many of them married, were arrested, with some losing their jobs, their wives and their homes.
Now, after recruiting in the “pink press”, one in 10 of the force’s 2,309 police officers is gay, almost twice the 6% of the general population estimated to be homosexual by a recent Treasury report.
The Staffordshire force also pioneered a scheme called True Vision, intended to give an accurate picture of levels of homophobic, as well as racist and religious, attacks by inviting people to report crimes anonymously.
Darren Oakey, 35, divisional “hate crime” officer for Burton upon Trent, who is gay, told The Times: “How well police forces deal with different groups within their own ranks is nowadays seen as a litmus test.”
Stephen Frost, Stonewall’s Director of Workplace programmes, said: “We know that the 1.7 million gay staff in the UK workforce are increasingly keen to choose gay-friendly employers.”
“Staffordshire is one of a number of police forces across the country making increasing efforts to appeal to lesbian and gay recruits. There isn’t necessarily a stereotypically ‘gay-friendly’ employer any more.”
Other organisations at the top of the list include IBM, who grant three days’ paid “honeymoon” leave to a male staff member celebrating a civil partnership, Credit Suisse, First Boston and BT.