Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The French campaigner rebuilding LGBT+ community's trust in police

The French campaigner rebuilding LGBT+ community's trust in police

ORLEANS (Reuters) - Christophe Desportes-Guilloux is old enough to remember a time, decades ago, when French police would raid nightclubs and detain people like him for being gay.

Those times have gone but they left a legacy: a deficit of trust between police and France's LGBT+ community which means that, today, some people are reluctant to go to the police when they are victims of attacks linked to their sexual identity.

Desportes-Guilloux, 56, has made it his mission to fix that problem, by going into police stations and training officers in how to handle reports of crime from LGBT+ people.

"There are still many LGBT people who fear people in uniform," he said outside the police headquarters in the central French city of Orleans, where he delivered a training session for officers.

"The idea is to improve the relationship between police officers and citizens," said Desportes-Guilloux, who represents an LGBT+ association called GAGL45.

According to French interior ministry data, in 2020 police recorded 1,590 victims of crimes classified as homophobic or transphobic.

But that is an incomplete picture. A study by the ministry found that in the period 2012-2018, only 20% of people who were victims of anti-LGBT threats or violence filed a report with the police.

"We wondered why, and we heard two different kinds of answers," said Desportes-Guilloux. "People telling us: 'It's because police officers don't give us a good reception,' and others saying: 'Because I don't dare to go file a complaint'."

"So the idea for us is to create a link between those who may need to file a complaint and the police officers who receive the complaints."

To date, his association has carried out about 10 training sessions for police. At the Orleans police headquarters, Desportes-Guilloux stood in front of an audience of around 30 officers who work in the department that receives reports of crime from citizens.

He guided the officers through the different types of sexual orientation and sexual identities they could encounter in society and the vocabulary used to describe them. And he briefed them on the kind of crimes to which LGBT+ people are especially vulnerable.

One of the officers listening was Maryline Francois, a major in charge of the department.

The training, she said, "allows us to identify the victim, to know who we are talking to, in order to adapt our speech to what this person feels."

"It is a lot about victims' sensibility and perception, which we must adapt to."