Levels of gay police officers ‘vary significantly across the country’

The data follows the inquest into Stephen Port’s victims, at which families said a lack of understanding of LGBT issues hindered the investigations.

25 February 2022

Police officers who identify as gay or lesbian make up less than 3% of the workforce in some constabularies across England and Wales, the first figures of their kind suggest.

Other forces reported levels more than double this, according to snapshot staffing figures obtained from police forces by the PA news agency under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

However, the true number is likely to be much higher due to some officers being reluctant to come out to their employers amid concerns about their sexuality creating a barrier to promotion, or resulting in homophobic abuse.

The data follows the damning conclusions of the inquest for the victims of serial killer Stephen Port, at which grieving family members and friends said prejudice, a lack of LGBT officers in Barking and Dagenham, and a failure to engage with the gay community at the time meant crucial clues about his murderous spree were missed.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock, co-chairman of the LGBT+ network representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans officers across the country, told PA: “If we’re not representative of our communities then we don’t understand that community.

“There needs to be an understanding of what the communities need to give people an equitable police service.”

The percentage of officers in each force identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight was calculated by PA only where constabularies had data for at least half of its officers.

This equated to 26 out of 40 forces which replied to FOI requests.

While heavily caveated, the data indicates wide discrepancies in the number of LGB officers in each police force.

The highest percentage of officers identifying as gay or lesbian, of the 26 forces with relevant information, was in Sussex (7.2%), followed by Humberside (6.2%) and Hertfordshire (5.8%).

Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock, of the police's LGBT+ network, said forces needed to reflect their communities (Greater Manchester Police/PA)
Chief Inspector Lee Broadstock, of the police’s LGBT+ network, said forces need to reflect their communities (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Conversely, the lowest percentage of gay and lesbian officers was in Lincolnshire (2.3%), followed by Dyfed Powys and North Wales (both 2.9%).

The figures showed Dyfed Powys and Suffolk had the lowest percentage of officers identifying as bisexual (0.8%).

The highest rate was in Warwickshire (4.4%).

Similarly, the highest rate of heterosexual officers was in Dyfed Powys and Lincolnshire (both 96.2%), followed by Gloucestershire (95.5%) and South Wales (95.4%).

The lowest rate was in Sussex (89.1%) and Warwickshire (90.2%).

The Metropolitan Police – the country’s largest force, with a headcount of more than 33,500 – only had data for 40.1% of the workforce.

The figures showed 92.8% described themselves as heterosexual, where their sexuality was recorded to be either straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, self-described, or pansexual/other.

The figures showed 5.1% identified as gay or lesbian, with 2.1% bisexual.

Mr Broadstock, a chief inspector with Greater Manchester Police, said: “I think what the data suggests is that there is probably a higher concentration of officers who are LGB in areas where there is a more welcoming environment for them – that’s where they will gravitate.”

But he said the true number of LGB officers in each force is likely to be higher, with no sexuality recorded for 61,000 out of 131,000 officers.

Stephen Port murders
Relatives of Stephen Port’s victims said there was a lack of understanding of the gay community within the police in 2014 and 2015 when he murdered four gay men (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mr Broadstock, who said he has previously experienced homophobia among colleagues and members of the public, added: “Sometimes they don’t trust what their force HR is going to do with their responses – are they going to be treated less favourably in future when it comes to promotions? – and without doubt Port shed a light on cultures within policing that are not welcoming environments.

“It is sad that that is still the case sometimes, but the picture is absolutely improving.

“If you tried to get these figures 20 years ago it would have been a very different story – I doubt you would have got any data.”

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, published in 2019, show an estimated 2.7% of the UK population aged 16 and over identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, up from 2.2% in 2018.

Another 3.0% stated they did not know their sexuality, or refused to answer, up from 2.5% in 2018.

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