Galop has provided over 25 years of advice, support, research and lobbying around the issues of LGBT policing. Reflecting back on this history proves an inspiration in how far the gay communities (and the police) have come since the early days of intimidation and fear.
Early Days: 1982-1984
In the early 1980s the police operated with little accountability for their treatment of LGBT people. The gay community was seen as an easy target for arrests and intimidation. In June 1982 the Gay London Police Monitoring Group (GALOP) was created to expose the systematic harassment of the gay and lesbian communities by the police and to educate them about their rights.
Initially a voluntary grouping of lawyers and interested parties providing a free service to gay men, funding from the Greater London Council subsequently allowed employment of two core workers; Galop’s first major achievement was to prove that the police were using agents provocateur to gain arrests and convictions of gay men.
Establishing A Voice: 1985-1987
A splinter project to support lesbians, the Lesbians and Policing Project (LESPOP), developed into an independent organisation working alongside Galop.
For the first time AIDS became a real issue for Galop. A quarter of the cases Galop dealt with involved a specific reference to AIDS including police making home arrests in space suits. Despite this backdrop of poor police behaviour when dealing with the gay community, Galop was successful in encouraging gay men to come forward to report ‘queerbashing’. This led to the beginning of a realisation by the Police that they needed the co-operation of the gay community to help solve homophobic crimes.
A Higher Profile: 1988-1991
By now Galop had a high media profile, with appearances on all major TV channels and in the national press, calling for a more coherent strategy for tackling the problem of violent and organised attacks by logging anti-gay crimes as a separate category.
Despite Section 28 becoming law, for the first time consultative meetings took place between representatives of the LGB community and the police. However the police displayed much rudeness, insensitivity and threats when members of the gay community did come forward to assist enquiries. There was also continuing escalation of policing of public gay sexual behaviour – from displays of affection to cruising. Massive police resources were dedicated to the control of these essentially ‘victimless’ crimes despite a huge rise in crimes with genuine victims.
Making Changes: 1992 – 1994
Following several years of increased dialogue between the police and the LGB community, arrests for gross indecency fell. Galop’s role was pivotal in engagement with policy making. As a result Galop became seen as working more closely with the police than LGB communities, and failing to involve or consult effectively with the black and minority ethnic LGB communities.
Operations were therefore suspended while Galop’s structure and aims were radically overhauled. A process of consultation was started through which the LGB communities were given the opportunity to shape Galop’s future work.
Reaching Out: 1995-1998
Galop held public forums, particularly addressing community members who had not been the focus of Galop’s work in the past. These resulted in important recommendations for future work.
Committed to reaching as many people as possible, Galop recruited a Youth Project Worker and specifically included bisexual people in its remit for the first time. Galop’s Youth work produced a pioneering needs assessment of young LGB people: ‘Telling It Like It Is’. This ultimately resulted in a full project to raise the profile of LGB youth issues, culminating in an event attended by over 100 organisations.
The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry saw a huge change in police response to race hate crime. Ultimately this led to the implementation of Minimum Standards for homophobic crimes.
The Crown Prosecution Service also introduced policy guidelines for dealing with crimes LGBT hate crime, aiming to provide equality in protection by the criminal law, whilst the Association of Chief Police Officers set out new guidelines for more sympathetic policing of public sexual activity. Following the nail bombings in 1999, Galop was also a key agency in helping to establish the historic LGBT Advisory Group to the Metropolitan Police.
A Strategic plan for Galop’s future began to be developed, moving more towards a hierarchical structure for the first time in order to allow greater specialisation and focus.
A New Phase: 2002-2006
Galop’s first Chief Executive was appointed in 2002 and acquired its first patron, author Sarah Waters, in 2004, followed by its first male patron, actor Cyril Nri, in 2005.
Research continued to be important. Another pioneering publication, ‘The Low Down’, was the first in the UK to focus on black LGB experiences of hate crime, policing and community safety. This research then informed specific work carried out through the Black Services Development Project. Galop also undertook studies for Greenwich and Bexley Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and ran Seminars to promote the Government’s new Employment Equality Regulations.
Galop worked with the Met to develop ‘Assisted Reporting’: a way for reporting through Galop to be passed anonymously to the police for investigation. The fact that crimes as severe as kidnapping and sexual assault have been reported this way indicates that many LGBT victims of serious hate crime are still wary about approaching the police directly.
Continuing its remit of inclusion, in 2004 Galop officially offered all its services to transgender people.
The Way We Are: 2007- present
Alongside the arrival of Galop’s second Chief Executive came considerable challenges, particularly in relation to finding continued funding for our core services of reporting, advice and advocacy.
However Galop’s ancilliary services saw successful growth in the areas of joint or partnership working, continuing to improve LGBT community involvement, advising and improving communications between local authorities, statutory bodies and other organisations in order to make policing more responsive, in particular advising the Metropolitan Police Service jointly with the LGBT Advisory Group.
Galop continues to lead the way, most notably launching a ground-breaking project providing the only specialist LGBT sexual abuse support in the country and publishing a landmark report increasing understanding of unreported LGBT hate crime and of services available to victims of these crimes.