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Police DLOs "chipping away" at making change

Thu 17 Mar 2011 In: True Stories View at Wayback View at NDHA

Sgt. Moana Parsons A  police Diversity Liaison Officer has discussed her personal journey and the changes in the force which are steadily making it more and more inclusive and respectful, both within its own ranks and out in the community. Wellington's Sergeant Moana Parsons has been a police officer since 1998 and a Diversity Liaison Officer since 2004, when the DLO programme began. She told an audience at the Outgames Human Rights Conference she was recruited to the police from “Scarfie lesbian utopia” in Dunedin and it didn't even cross her mind that it might be an issue or a problem to join the police as an out lesbian, so that's what she did. “I fronted up to my first interview with the recruiting officer at the Dunedin Central Police Station and we sat down and had a little bit of a semi-formal casual conversation. And not far into the interview he said to me ‘look I just need to check that you're joining the police for the right reasons' and I sort of looked at him quizzically and he said ‘yes well women have a habit of joining and within two years they're pregnant and then they leave'.” Parsons says that stumped her, as she was a 23-year-old lesbian and it had never crossed her mind that she might get pregnant at some point in the future. “I didn't really have an answer for that,” she says. “I just sort of assured him that wasn't going to happen.” Less than a couple of minutes later the recruiting officer looked down at her form and mentioned the fact she had a female partner listed, and said “again, I just need to check that you're joining for the right reasons.” When she looked at him quizzically he explained that “some people, they have a habit of joining just to push their own bandwagon”. Sergeant Parsons says she was stunned and it dawned on her that perhaps the organisation she was so keen to join wasn't so happy about her being gay as she was. “So that was sort of an introduction to some of the issues within the organisation at that time, and that was 1998, five years on since the changes to the employment laws. But having said that, that's probably the most negative thing I experienced. And so I got through that, I got through the recruiting process. When I got to Police College there were four other lesbians from a Section of 80 that had 14 women … so I was in good company. “My stance of coming into the police force out has put me in good stead and meant that my progression through my career has been quite a smooth one. And I think I've had it pretty easy compared to, say, my male counterparts, most of whom are probably not out yet and I don't know who they are because they're so deeply in the closet.” Sergeant Parsons says a lot has changed in the 12 years since she has been a police officer and the seven years since the DLOs were formed. “Last year we had two male recruits go through the recruitment process who were openly out and gay before they joined and when they went through the recruitment process. So that's 17 years after the changes to the employment act, we finally had a couple of guys to go through who feel confident enough in our organisation to be able to do that. It may not be happening at the speed that most of us would like, but it is happening. And I guess we just need to keep chipping away at it and be patient.”     Jacqui Stanford - 17th March 2011

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Thursday, 17th March 2011 - 3:49pm

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