Newcastle Herald: University of Newcastle seeks queer perspectives on cops

UNIVERSITY of Newcastle researchers are looking to speak to members of the LGBTQ+ community and police about relations between the two from 1950 to 1980.

UON lecturer in criminology Dr Justin Ellis said he and Dr Kate Senior were using the Copley Bequest to collect stories and build understanding of police-queer community relations in Newcastle, to share in order to encourage conversations about the importance of inclusion and diversity.

“We have a reasonable understanding of police-queer community relations in the 1950s but most of that is focused on the criminal law and enforcement against men who had sex with men in public is quite well documented through case law,” he said.

“But that’s a very narrow, legal focus. What we’re aiming to do through this research is expand that focus to the hidden stories we don’t know about that can broaden the narrative about police-queer relations.”

Dr Ellis said in the decades following the 1950s, homosexuality became less of a law enforcement priority as identity rights and tolerance, if not acceptance, of homosexuality became more widespread.

“We’re looking to tap into the broader breadth of experiences of that time between the police and the queer community, beyond criminal law,” he said.

This may include resistance, he said, by police officers to the “tropes of the time in terms of conservative moral values”.

“Is there an amazing story out there about a police officer who supported the LGBTQ+ community in a way that wasn’t necessarily common at the time and that we don’t know about?”

Dr Ellis said LGBTQ+ community members and police from that time would now be in the later decades of life.

“There’s an opportunity for people to share their stories who 20 years ago may not have wanted to, for a whole range of reasons,” he said.

The city was often “underrepresented” in LGBTQ+ history, he said, and stories may have been lost as people moved away.

“There’s so much queer history in Newcastle but it’s very scattered and fragmented and we really want to pull it together.” The journal article will accompany a short documentary and mini exhibition.

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