In a significant step towards strengthening community relations and rebuilding trust, the Metropolitan Police (Met) has announced the reinstatement of full-time LGBT+ liaison officers in London, including Harrow.
These officers will be dedicated to working closely with the LGBT+ community and organisations, ensuring their specific needs and concerns are addressed effectively. PC Sam Varnham, the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for Harrow, Barnet, and Brent, will spearhead this crucial initiative in Harrow.
The commitment to deliver the strongest-ever neighbourhood policing for London and foster more trust, less crime, and high standards has been a priority for Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley. Acting upon the recommendations made by Baroness Casey, the Commissioner has taken concrete steps to address the findings and create a safer environment for all Londoners.
The creation of the LGBT+ Community Liaison Officer roles was developed in close collaboration with community members and the LGBT+ Independent Advisory Group (IAG). This approach ensured that feedback and insights were incorporated into the new model, taking into account the evolving expectations and requirements of the LGBT+ community.
The pressing need for dedicated officers became evident due to a series of tragic incidents, including the murders of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor. These incidents further eroded the already low levels of trust that the LGBT+ community had in the Met. The introduction of full-time LGBT+ Community Liaison Officers aims to rebuild these broken bonds and provide a single point of contact for LGBT+ individuals throughout every part of London.
The newly appointed officers will work closely with their colleagues, who already contribute voluntarily to provide support and advice on LGBT+ issues alongside their regular duties.
PC Sam Varnham, the CLO for Harrow, Barnet, and Brent, expressed his commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive community, saying, “It’s our duty to protect and serve all members of our community, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristics. It’s important that we work to create a world where everyone can feel safe and accepted for who they are. As a CLO, I will get to know my local community and help to build bridges so we can support LGBT+ people better and work together.”
Acknowledging the need for change and rectification, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley recently accepted the existence of biased systems and processes within the Met that have perpetuated discrimination against both communities and officers. In a heartfelt statement, he apologised for the failings of the past and expressed his commitment to building a new Met that all Londoners can be proud of and have confidence in.
Renowned human rights activist Peter Tatchell commended the Commissioner’s efforts, stating, “Sir Mark is backing up his apology to the LGBT+ community with concrete action. Restoring these dedicated LGBT+ liaison officers will strengthen collaboration between the police and local LGBT+ communities across London. It will help the fight against homophobic hate crimes and ensure better protection for LGBT+ Londoners. We know from past experience that when the police have specialist officers, LGBT+ people have greater confidence and are more likely to report violent attacks, domestic violence, and sexual assaults.”
Commander Colin Wingrove, head of Community Engagement, commented on the importance of engaging with London’s diverse LGBT+ community, saying, “London is one of the most diverse capital cities in the world with a significant LGBT+ community. Every person who identifies as LGBT+ should feel safe in their neighbourhood and home reassured and confident in their local police service. We have been listening to community groups and partners aiming to improve engagement with London’s LGBT+ community.”