With violent attacks on the LGBTQ+ community seemingly on the rise in Dublin city centre, Pearse Street Garda Station has introduced new Diversity Officers within its ranks. The aim is that these trained officials will be able to offer support in a safe environment to local people of minority communities, while also promoting an increase in incident reporting.
To find out more about the role and its impact on the LGBTQ+ community, GCN spoke with Officer Noeleen Byrne who will work in this area.
Can you explain what a Community Policing Unit does?
Community Policing Units throughout the country provide dedicated Community Gardaí to specific areas. These Community Gardaí then have responsibility for this area. As Community Gardaí we aim to build trust and positive relationships within our areas. We link in with residents (Neighbourhood Watch), stakeholders (Business Watch), schools/colleges (Schools Programme/Campus Watch) and local Community Agencies and Organisations. We offer safety talks to individuals and organisations as well as Crime Prevention advice. At Pearse Street Garda Station, Dublin 2 we cover quite a large and diverse Community Policing area which benefits greatly from having trained Diversity Officers in place.
Can you tell us more about the Diversity Officers in Pearse Street Garda Station?
As part of our Community Policing remit, we have been trained as Diversity Officers. We currently have 10 trained Diversity Officers attached to Community Policing Unit at Pearse Street Garda Station. As Diversity Officers we specifically reach out to minority groups and groups from a diverse background. Building trust within these communities is hugely important to us. We attend workshops, meetings, open days and promote our existence as Diversity Officers especially to victims of Hate Crime. We offer an extra layer of support to victims and can engage with victims in a way that is tailored to their respective needs.
How are you engaging with the LGBTQ+ Community?
Our Community Policing Unit in Pearse Street Garda Station is central to a lot of local LGBTQ+ organisations and stakeholders. We have always maintained a positive working relationship. We invite local groups in to speak with us to try help us understand how we can improve the policing service we provide and build on those relationships. Recently we launched a new initiative where we designed and created a Diversity Poster which provides our details and we are currently linking in with local establishments such as Street 66 and The George who have both kindly agreed to display some in their premises and online. We have also met with BeLonG To and hope to meet with some of their youth groups over the coming months. Through these interactions, we hope to try and build some trust within the community that we are here to help and have Guards that have volunteered to become Diversity Officers as they want to help build these relationships.
Obviously, the LGBTQ+ Community is particularly disturbed by the rise of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attacks. What are the Gardaí doing to address this problem?
Firstly, as Gardaí, we take every assault, attack, and incident extremely serious. Ultimately we want any victim of crime to report it to us. We are aware that some members of the LGBTQ+ community may not feel comfortable coming forward and reporting but we cannot urge them enough to do so. We have dedicated officers and diversity officers that will take every report seriously and investigate the same. We also have the online hate crime reporting system if anyone feels too uncomfortable to call into the station. As Diversity Officers we can offer that layer of support to victims. We hope that through all these initiatives we can reach out and build up that trust that is needed for victims to come forward.
How can people seek help after an incident and what type of supports are available?
Again we cannot emphasise the importance of reporting incidents to us. We can offer a range of supports to victims. If anyone is unsure of what they should do or how an investigation might proceed we can always speak to someone informally and in confidence over the phone or in person. We can meet them in an environment that is comfortable for them, it does not need to be in a Garda Station. We are here to help and to listen without any judgement. Every report will be treated with the utmost respect.
What should you do if you witness an attack?
If you witness an attack you should report the same to Gardaí. Someone may be vulnerable or not in a position at the time to contact Gardaí so you should call 999 and explain the situation. If it is not an emergency situation we would still encourage you to contact us through calling the local Garda Station or Diversity Officer. Efforts can then be made to talk with the victim and ascertain what exactly happened and how they want to proceed. Investigations are always based on what the victim wants and how the victim wants to proceed.
Historically the Gardaí have not always supported the LGBTQ+ Community. How has this changed?
Historically, policing in general was very different. However, as a police force, we have adapted and changed to provide an inclusive service to the communities we serve. We are aware that there is still a lot of work to do to build trust but this is exactly why as Diversity Officers we are reaching out to the community. We have volunteered to do this role. We want to do this role. We want to engage with the community. We want to help build these relationships. We are here to talk, to listen and ultimately to protect our communities. We hope these efforts can be reciprocated and relationships strengthened.
How can members of the public contact their Diversity Officers at Pearse Street Garda Station?
We can be contacted on our office number 01 6669030 or alternatively via email at [email protected] We have distributed our Diversity Information Poster to stakeholders and agencies in our locality also. Nationally, details of your local Diversity Officers can be found on the Garda.ie website.
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