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Police spent more than £90,000 on Pride t-shirts, fans and rainbow merch – and, shockingly, some people aren’t very happy about it

Emma Powys Maurice August 17, 2020
Police

A police officer joins the parade during Brighton Pride 2018 (Tristan Fewings/Getty)

Police forces across the UK have spent more than £90,000 on various rainbow-coloured Pride merchandise over the past three years, figures show.

A Scottish Sun freedom of information request revealed that a total of £91,662 was spent on promotional Pride stock between 21 police forces from January 2017 to last month.

The amount was spent on items such as pens, t-shirts, lanyards and Pride-themed car livery.

The colourful items are intended to signal the police’s support for the LGBT+ community after a long history of poor relations, but some have questioned whether they really have any meaningful impact.

“It’s a box-ticking exercise,” said retired Sussex Police Detective Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore. “Do the LGBT+ community really think it’s making the police more responsive to them? I highly doubt it.”

He dismissed the inclusive gestures as nothing more than “virtue signalling” and criticised the spending at a time when police forces are undergoing heavy cuts.

A police car at Pride in London 2019 (Tristan Fewings/Getty/Pride in London)

But Kent Police’s Chief Inspector Lara Connor justified the expenditure, saying: “Officers and staff are dedicated to building stronger communities across Kent.

“As a very small part of this work, the force has invested in some items to bring home to the wider public the importance of communities working together to help support each other.”

Surrey Police spent £566 on pens and £514.50 on 2,000 “rainbow bugs”, £274.80 on rainbow lanyards, plus £90 on a single table cloth.

Meanwhile, Northumberland Police spent £2,913 on livery fitted to three vehicles, and Avon and Somerset Police splashed out £2,060 on 1,000 Pride bags, £1,687 on lanyards, £888 on 1,000 fans and £780 on 60 T-shirts.

Kent Police spent £6,123 on curvy grip pens, trolley coins, rainbow erasers and wristbands. A further £1,050 was used to wrap three patrol cars in rainbow livery.

While reports of LGBT+ hate crimes are on the rise across the UK, the majority now end in a conviction, suggesting that police attitudes towards homophobic violence and harassment are improving as a whole.

Investment in activities like Pride helps police stay connected with the communities they serve, said Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is gay.

“In Britain, our police use community engagement to help people follow the law,” he told the Scottish Sun.

“Therefore it’s really important to make sure police invest in community engagement activities — whether it be on rainbow epaulettes for Pride or wearing poppies for Remembrance Day — to maintain that link with communities.”

More: hate crimes, police, Pride

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