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Police making Rainbow Connections

Mon 21 Nov 2016 In: Our Communities View at Wayback View at NDHA

The New Zealand Police force is looking to strengthen its commitment to diversity and improve its relations with LGBTI communities. As a result, the Rainbow ‘Aniwaniwa’ Connections Police diversity group has been established and will regularly consult with LGBTI stakeholders to give them a voice. Sergeant Rhona Stace Credit: Caroline Rudford Tamaki Makaurau Diversity (Rainbow Connections) Coordinator, Inspector Tracy Phillips, says “One of our values is diversity and we are moving more and more to an inclusive police that reflects the communities we serve. “That may sound a bit cheesy but actually we acknowledge we don’t do somethings well and this is one where we have opportunities for improvement.” The group initially met with LGBTI stakeholders including RainbowYOUTH and Body Positive to get a feel for how the Police were being perceived and what they could do better to improve trust and confidence in their work. Phillips says these are areas that rate quite low in the LGBTI communities. “Feedback at our first catch up was that LGBTI people and members of the Rainbow Community having been treated poorly in the past and people were reluctant to approach Police.” She says that because of a reluctance to talk to some officers, the group needed to identify who was rainbow friendly to provide the LGBTI communities with extra reassurance. One of the members of the group went through and updated the Police National DLO list (Diversity Liaison Officers) and the group set up a core of dedicated rainbow friendly staff across Tamaki Makaurau. Phillips says Auckland was the first area to focus on as it is “the Rainbow capital of New Zealand.” She says “As a result we have had a number of referrals and been advised of things on Facebook we may not have been aware of and have ensured that we do provide support and follow up.” The group has created a great network of people and Phillips says with increased trust matters are now able to be identified earlier. “…Knowing who to contact we are able to ensure the right staff are involved and support linked in for dealing with complaints against police or issues. “We ensure that our rainbow staff make contact early with LGBTI victims and make sure that matters are dealt with in accordance with our values (Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, commitment to Māori, Empathy and Diversity) so that people can have trust and confidence and we can ensure privacy and discretion if required.” A member of the group has also researched support agencies and contacts so the group now has a list of external support agencies they can refer to. Continuing to build on the work they are doing, the group is planning to create a range of You Tube clips and have been invited to the Hui Takatapui for the first time this year. “We are also looking at potentially doing a recruiting campaign for Tamaki Makaurau in the rainbow community in 2017,” says Phillips. “We want to make NZ the safest country and that means for all of NZ!” She says “We really are excited about doing things better and getting out there and seen for what we are doing, which is moving us along in the right direction for the right reasons. We do need help, we have come a long way (some more than others) and are consulting to make sure we get it right. “We also have staff in the GLBTI community that are keen to increase our visibility and maybe inspire others to join us or just see that we do care and if people want to talk then we can identify rainbow friendly staff you can have confidence in to treat you with respect.” In line with the increase in LGBTI visibility within the Police, New Zealand’s only openly MTF transgender Police officer, Sergeant Rhona Stace has been featured on the cover of the New Zealand Police internal magazine Ten One. A senior prosecutor in Waitematā District, who is active in the Rainbow Connections group, Stace says that “Much of the courage to come out came from the faith I had in my colleagues to treat me well - and that trust has been repaid tenfold.” Leading up to coming out, Stace was in a heterosexual marriage and was suffering from depression. In 2013, she was hospitalised after an accident at home and a call from her lawyer advised her that ‘her secret was out’. “It was the first time anyone else knew and it was a real relief to have someone talking to me about it in a supportive way,” she told Ten One, the police staff magazine. She began transitioning and in 2015 came out at work. “I met with my workgroup, told them what was going on. Then on Monday I started work as Rhona.” She says “Everyone without exception was extraordinarily good about it. I experienced support - admiration even - concern for my wellbeing and respect.” The process of coming out and transitioning in the workplace has been one supported by the first openly transgender Police officer in New Zealand, former Senior Constable Sarah Lurajud. “I popped out and said ‘ta-daaa’ – but instead of the big response I expected, people said ‘OK, that’s good, now let’s get on with the job’. The best response someone like me could receive,” she says. Stace attended this year’s Auckland Pride Parade and is organising the 2017 Police contingent. - 21st November 2016    


First published: Monday, 21st November 2016 - 2:53pm

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