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Police to parade at Pride

Show of support: Stephen Corbishley will attend event (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Police officers are to turn out at Bermuda’s first Pride celebration in a show of solidarity with the island’s LGBTQ people.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley said he would back officers who wanted to take part in the event.

He added that he would also attend Bermuda Pride to hear how police can improve its service to minority groups and to “demonstrate partnership support”.

Mr Corbishley said: “The BPS is an inclusive organisation and we want inclusive communities.

“I’m very proud to be commissioner of the BPS and that pride should extend so that we give confidence to every single person in Bermuda that they can contact their police service at any time and they will be treated fairly, with respect and we will give them the best service possible.”

Mr Corbishley added that Assistant Commissioner Martin Weekes would join him at the event, to be held at Victoria Park in Hamilton on August 31.

The Bermuda Police Service earlier pledged to back the gathering.

In a letter sent to The Royal Gazette yesterday, the commissioner pointed out that the service’s attendance was not only to ensure smooth running on the day but would involve a show of support.

Mr Corbishley said he was concerned by a number of unacceptable comments made on social media, but believed Bermudians were prepared to embrace the celebration.

He said: “I’ve lived in Bermuda for just coming up to a year now and I’ve made it my home, alongside my family.

“I think Bermuda is a vibrant, multicultural community that reflects very strong family and community values and Bermuda is in an excellent position to embrace and support the Pride parade and to ensure that LGBTQ people in Bermuda are equally proud in their identity.”

He explained: “In my time in policing, particularly in the UK, I’m very familiar with Pride parades and also some of the challenges that our LGBTQ communities face.

“I think the BPS, as one of the biggest public service employers and because of the nature of the work that we do, should be visible in how we support this event.

“The BPS reflects local communities and we have LGBTQ officers and staff here that directly reflect the communities that they police.

“It’s important for me as the commissioner to support the event, but also it’s important that it supports Bermuda in enabling every single person here to feel, from the police perspective, safe, respected and able to fulfil their potential, particularly young people who might feel afraid about being who they are.”

It was revealed this month that Bermuda’s first gay Pride event would be held this summer and campaigners said it would help to reinforce that LGBTQ people are part of island society.

Mr Corbishley said: “As, very unfortunately, you get with such events, you have a number of people that express views.

“I am respectful of different views and people do have different views on this, particularly from some aspects of a religious basis.

“But there have been a very small pocket of views which are wholly unacceptable — one certainly was brought to my attention that was very extreme and promoted violence.”

Mr Corbishley added: “Social media reflects the conversations going on in Bermuda.

“Not surprisingly, there are some differing views over this and I fully respect that but when those views are expressed in a hateful, discriminatory and, in a very small number of cases, violent rhetoric then the police service has to attend to that.

“Indeed, we certainly have one comment that we’re now investigating that I consider to be extremely serious.”

Mr Corbishley said: “The police service’s role is first and foremost to protect people, but also to work with our partners to ensure they’re able to enjoy their lives free from discrimination.”

The commissioner joined the BPS last August after a decades-long career in the UK police.

He said: “Over nearly 30 years in policing, I’ve seen a significant number of changes from the policing perspective, where perhaps in the past we didn’t take seriously complaints from members of the public that had been intimidated, harassed or even subject to violence.

“The introduction of particular policies, community awareness and engagement with community groups has changed some of the ways in which we work, but also in which we approach such matters.”

He added: “I would wholeheartedly support any officer or member of staff who wanted to go along and demonstrate their support to LGBTQ.”

Mr Corbishley said he was in talks with OutBermuda, the main sponsor of the event, and looked forward to meeting its members to discuss how the BPS can assist the organisation further.