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Published: 11:18, 24 March 2009 |
In just nine months more than 900 people were the victims of hate crimes in Kent.
Between last April and January police dealt with 914 reports of people being abused because of their skin colour, sexuality, religion, gender, disability or age.
Kent Police says it is taking the issue seriously and that an increase in reporting of these crimes is partly down to the diversity training given to every police officer in the county, which includes the chance to talk to people from minority communities.
Assistant chief constable Gary Beautridge said: “The role of the police is guardianship, looking after the vulnerable (from all sections of the community).
“To do this our staff need to be able to act in a respectful, tolerant and act in a non-discriminatory way.”
Police acknowledge that the ideas like “diversity training” for officers are sometimes greeted with scepticism as box-ticking so that the force will appear to be politically correct.
Those criticisms were faced earlier this year, when Kent Police challenged teenagers to write an essay about gay issues.
But Mr Beautridge argues the truth is quite different.
He said: “Our training is embedded in reality. We question things like why do Muslim women have their heads covered, what pressures are placed on disabled victims of crime or why should you not wear shoes into a Sikh household.”
They hope it will reduce the chance of officers alienating victims or potential witnesses, leading to better relations and better crime reduction.
Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT, a group working for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people, said: “The LGBT relationship with authority is very complex.
“It was only in 1993 that the World Health Organisation finally said that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.
“If you don’t understand the history of the LGBT community then you cannot understand the anger and difficulty in dealing with authority.
“What is the job of the police? It is to prevent crime and by making links with the community. They are doing just that.”
In North Kent, an area with a large ethnic population, this seems to be working out.
The force there has seen crime reduce in the past three years by almost one third.
Mr Beautridge is convinced this has something to do with the work police have done is reaching out to all aspects of the community.
He said: “The policing work would not be successful if you did not have the confidence and support of local people.
“I do not think there will ever be a global panacea for preventing hate crimes, but I do think we have made massive progress.”
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