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Chair's New Year Blog (Number 1: 2017)

Thursday, 5 January 2017 19:00

Hello and welcome to the first of my Blogs. 

This new feature forms part of our new Communications Strategy and Annual Communications Plan which has been meticulously developed by our Communications Secretary Ross Fulton-Boyd. 

The new Blog shall supplement our already popular social media presence as well as our members email updates and “Over & Out” Newsletter. 

In this, the first blog, I wanted to wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful New Year and share with you some of the highlights of 2016 and some of the plans for 2017.

We began 2016 with a complete re-design of our website. Indeed 2016 has had a focus on Communication. In the days of the old GPA, members would be lucky to receive a twice yearly newsletter. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Youtube indeed no website for the UK GPA except in Scotland. 

Compared to where we were just a few years ago I believe we have one of the best communications strategies in place.

A good example of this occurred on 17th May when we broadcast a live and interactive video via Facebook to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) including a panel of guests from Police Scotland, COPFS and the Equality Network discussing the issue of LGBT hate crime. Despite the technical challenges and limited resources available to us, we did something new and ground breaking for a police staff association. 

On Sunday June 12th I, like all of you, woke up to learn of the horrific events that occurred within the Pulse Nightclub, Orlando. Due to the time difference of about 5 hours, events were still unfolding and I spent much of Sunday watching a live stream from Channel 9 in Orlando and following Twitter updates from the Orlando Police Department. I spent much of that day updating the GPA Scotland Facebook Page and Twitter accounts. 

As terrible as the mass murder and maiming of innocent LGBT people was, the LGBT community across the world came together in solidarity and mourning. Vigils were held in the days and weeks following the tragedy and I attended the Edinburgh vigil in St Andrews Square. We also recognise and appreciate the bravery of the police officers who put their own lives at risk in order to save lives and neutralise the killer. The terrible events of that night shall never be forgotten.

In July, GPA Scotland took to the streets of Edinburgh for Pride. As always, a great day was had by all who took part. Pride is about acknowledging our LGBT officers and staff and the contribution that they make to policing. It is also about demonstrating publicly the commitment police officers and staff, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity have toward the LGBT community. We absolutely acknowledge that there is a history of distrust. That is why one of our three core aims is entirely dedicated to improving relations between the police service and the LGB and T community. As an association, we are totally committed to continuing our positive engagement and work with LGBT communities and organisations across Scotland. 

In August, the first ever World LGBT Police Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals took place in Amsterdam. 

GPA Scotland sent 4 delegates and we were joined by Dan Aldridge from Stonewall Scotland. The event was organised by the National Police of the Netherlands and Roze in Blauw (Dutch GPA). 450 delegates from 26 countries spanning 6 continents attended. 

On a personal note I was delighted to be nominated for the Uniformed ICON of the Year Award and received the Runner Up prize from ACC Steve Johnson at a Gala Ceremony held within the Hilton Glasgow in October. 

December saw us hold our conference together with SEMPER Scotland: “Valuing An Inclusive Workplace: Positive Health and Wellbeing in Policing”. Originally these were discussed as separate themes however it soon became obvious how intrinsically linked they are. I’m grateful to all the excellent speakers and organisations who took part in the marketplace. Most importantly I hope that everyone who attended benefitted.  

We are now in 2017 and our first event shall take place on Friday 20th January (6pm-8pm) at the Police Club, 28 York Place in Edinburgh. This is just a wee informal get-together to kick-start the new year. I hope you will be able to join us. For more details contact Grant (east@gpascotland.com). (*UPDATE 16/01: Please note that this event has been postponed. A new date shall be arranged in due course). 

February sees the return of the popular LGBT History Month Quiz Night on 24th February within Arta, 62 Albion Street, Glasgow. More details will be circulated in the next few days. 

In the Spring, the Executive Committee shall be heading up to Aberdeen and arranging a members ‘Drop-In’ event. 

We shall have our AGM in the Summer and as this is an election year, nomination forms and voting details shall be distributed as per the constitution. 

We are already planning for Glasgow Pride in August and lots more besides. 

Lastly I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Julie Frank who sadly passed away on Monday 2nd January following a battle with cancer. Julie joined Greater Manchester Police in 1979 and served 30 years with the Force. Julie was actively involved with the GPA from its early days and worked tirelessly nationally and within her own Force to tackle prejudice against LGBT people and helped improve and change the culture of policing. We stand on the shoulders of giants and Julie was a true giant. 

Alan