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  • Victoria police officers stand guard outside Flinders St. station in Victoria, Australia.

    Victoria police officers stand guard outside Flinders St. station in Victoria, Australia. | Photo: EFE

Published 17 May 2019

A leading senior constable told one subordinate that "in my day, we took people like you out the back of the station and beat you with a hose."

A report by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) reveals an "entrenched culture" of homophobia in Australia's Victoria Police force, which includes anti-gay rhetoric and hiring practices.

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LGBT officers are often targeted and ridiculed and derogatorily labeled "homo" and "fag". Officers reported several instances in which exchanges have escalated into violence. One officer recalled a colleague saying, "all gays should be gassed in the chamber like the Nazis" to which another officer responded that gay people "should be taken out to the back of the station and shot in the head."

Many of the comments were made by senior officers.

A leading senior constable told one subordinate that "in my day, we took people like you out the back of the station and beat you with a hose." One witness confirmed, in the report, that "there are many senior sergeants, inspectors and superintendents who are causing massive personal damage to people, yet nothing is done."

The culture of the hierarchal structure of the organization causes complaints by mid-ranking senior officers unchecked. 

In addition to discriminatory language, one individual said he was told that he would not be offered a promotion to a commissioned officer rank and that he would have to wait until the person in charge of hiring moves on. 

The VEOHRC attributes a "prevailing culture of masculinity and heteronormativity" as a main contributor to the prevalent homophobia in the force. The effects, on occasion, extended beyond the workplace, when members of the force raided queer bookshop Hares & Hyenas, resulting in one individual sustaining a potentially permanent injury. The incident is currently under review by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption commission.

The report added that "mental and physical health, engagement with work and colleagues, and their ability to trust and feel confident and proud" are all negatively affected by the homophobic behavior. The findings were acknowledged by Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, last year, who apologized for the incessant bullying in the force which allegedly drove officer Michael Maynes to take his own life in 2014.

The Victoria Police force has since committed to implementing the commission's recommendations, which include a restructuring of workplace harm and complaint protocol and training.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Lisa Hardeman said that the force "cannot be satisfied until every employee can go to work as their authentic self."

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