West Mercia's Chief Constable, Alex Murray, has made a formal apology to the LGBT+ community, acknowledging past homophobic witch-hunts and discriminatory law enforcement.
In a letter to Peter Tatchell, Murray expressed regret for the harm caused by the often abusive way the police enforced historic anti-LGBT+ laws:
"On behalf of West Mercia Police, I want to apologise for any historic misuse of the legislation and the detrimental impact this would have had on people's lives and to their confidence in the police service."
Murray is the nineth UK police chief to apologise, following similar apologies by the heads of the Metropolitan, City of London, Sussex, South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Avon & Somerset, Cambridgeshire and Nottinghamshire forces.
The West Mercia police service covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire.
It's apology is in response to the #ApologiseNow campaign initiated by the Peter Tatchell Foundation. The campaign was backed by comedian and TV presenter Paul O'Grady before his untimely passing.
Responding to the Peter Tatchell Foundation's appeal, Chief Constable Murray added:
"Attitudes and practices across our force are very different now and a huge amount of work has been done over the decades to improve the trust and confidence our LGBTQ+ communities have in West Mercia Police. This has also helped us to become a workforce that is more representative of the communities we serve than ever before.
"We are particularly proud of our positive day-to-day community engagement as well as at Pride events across the three counties and with specific groups, such as SAND in Shropshire and Telford. We have delivered learning packages to our workforce and our communities on the importance of tackling hate crime. Through this and our engagement we have seen an increase in reporting and in prosecutions for hate crime.
"We are working with our officers and staff to ensure that everyone feels empowered to challenge any discriminatory behaviour."
The Chief Constable's full letter can be read here
Peter Tatchell expressed gratitude for Alex Murray's apology:
"My immense gratitude to Alex Murray for his forthright apology to the LGBT+ community on behalf of West Mercia police. He has not only said sorry but backed it up with positive, proactive action to engage with the LGBT+ community to better serve and protect them.
"Some people in power find it hard to say sorry for past wrongs. Alex Murray didn't hesitate or evade the need for a clear apology. That marks him out as a commendable police chief. We thank him and his officers.
"This apology does the West Mercia police proud and will win much appreciation and praise from the LGBT+ community. It will go a long way towards securing a more constructive, collaborative relationship between West Mercia police and LGBT+ people – further building trust and cooperation. It is a commendable continuation of the great work the police have been doing in recent years. I hope it will inspire more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual assaults," said Mr Tatchell.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation continues to urge every Chief Constable in the UK to apologise for historic homophobic persecution.
The #ApologiseNow petition can be read and signed at ApologiseNow.com