The London Metropolitan Police commissioner has publicly apologized for the force’s history of homophobic persecution. Sir Mark Rowley is now the first U.K. police chief to apologize to LGBTQ+ people for persecuting the community.
Rowley also admitted that problems remain, vowing to root out “racists, misogynists, homophobes and transphobes” from the force.
“I seriously started tearing up. In this day and age, we don’t see that a lot, so it meant a lot to me. It warmed my heart.”
The commissioner read a letter in the House of Lords that he wrote to activist Peter Tatchell. Tatchell has been heading the #ApologiseNow campaign that aims to get apologies for past homophobic persecution.
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“The Met has had systems and processes in place which have led to bias and discrimination in the way we have policed London’s communities, and in the way we have treated our officers and staff, over many decades. Recent cases of appalling behavior by some officers have revealed that there are still racists, misogynists, homophobes, and transphobes in the organization, and we have already doubled down on rooting out those who corrupt and abuse their position.”
“I am clear that there is much for us to do. I am sorry to all of the communities we have let down for the failings of the past and look forward to building a new Met for London, one all Londoners can be proud of and in which they can have confidence.”
“We thank Sir Mark Rowley for being the first U.K. police chief to say sorry,” Tatchell responded. “His apology is a ground-breaking step forward that will, we hope, spur other police forces to follow suit. It draws a line under past Met persecution. This will help strengthen LGBT+ trust and confidence in the police; encouraging more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Fifty years after it sparked a worldwide movement for LGBTQ+ rights, the New York Police Department apologized for raiding the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Rebellion, as it came to be known after queer people fought back, throwing rocks, bottles, and bricks, torching cars, and filling the streets, is known as one of the seminal events in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality.
New York police commissioner James P. O’Neill apologized on behalf of the force during a safety briefing related to Pride month at Police Headquarters.