In The South

OPINION PIECE: “Take Pride in the Police” says Sophie Cook

March 14, 2017

I was deeply disappointed to see the recent National Union of Students transgender conference (March 7) vote to try to block police from attending Pride events.

Sophie Cook
Sophie Cook

The motion ‘No Pride in the Police expressed the view that the police were racist, classist and transphobic and said that “many trans people have faced mistreatment and violence at the hands of the police.”

I’m disappointed on a number of levels. Firstly I’m disappointed that the delegates felt the need for this divisive motion rather than working towards a solution.

Secondly, I’m disappointed that people still feel marginalised by the police and that the support I see in the forces I work with isn’t filtering down to the public, there’s obviously more work to be done to win back hearts and minds.

As someone who is old enough to remember the bad old days when I was terrified of leaving the house as my true self, not because of attacks by the public but because of the fear that any interaction with the police would lead to me being outed I know how bad the relationship between the police and the trans community has been.

But that was twenty years ago, times change, society has changed and so, I believe, have the police.

I’ve worked with a number of police forces including Sussex, Surrey and Bedfordshire to raise awareness of trans identities and issues and I have met nothing but honesty and support from the officers and staff that I’ve had the honour to work with.

Of course there are still a small minority of officers with bigoted views, the police are part of society and reflect the diversity that exists on our streets, both good and bad. But, the overriding impression that I get from the police I meet is of the need to support minority groups and to work together to make society a safer place for everyone.

The world improves when people work together to combat injustices, not when we fight those whose roles are to protect us. The way forward is conversation and inclusivity, not censure and exclusion.

The motion submitted by University of Manchester Students Union said:

Trans Conference Believes

1. The police disproportionately target trans people, along with sex workers, working class communities and communities of colour for policing, leading to an increase in those groups in the prison population.

2. Many trans people have faced mistreatment and violence at the hands of the police.

Trans Conference Resolves

♦ To not work or collaborate with the police.
♦ To encourage Prides to not have a police presence as part of parades, especially Pride events organised by students unions.
♦ To support and organise actions against police presence at Prides.

Sophie is a former RAF engineer, motorbike racer, newspaper editor, football and rock photographer. She is a self harm and suicide survivor and the first transgender newscaster on European terrestrial TV for Brighton’s Latest TV, and is the head of Latest LGBT+ TV, the UK’s first terrestrial LGBT+ TV channel where she hosts Beyond The Rainbow, a weekly LGBT+ news and chat show.

She is the first trans woman to work in the Premier League as club photographer for AFC Bournemouth, she is an ambassador for Kick It Out, patron of Just A Ball Game? and has spoken at Wembley Stadium and the TUC.

Sophie is also a Hate Crime ambassador for Sussex Police and speaks regularly at conferences about LGBT+ issues and consults with a number of major companies about inclusion and diversity.