17 January 2007

Brian Paddick

"What has my sexuality got to do with my ability?"

"Everything has consequences. You take decisions and live with the consequences. Thankfully, I've been given the constitution to survive the consequences. Many people end up destroyed, but you don't know until it happens to you whether you'll survive or not."

Brian Paddick is the highest ranking openly gay police officer in Britain; he is a rebel in an organisation whose raison d'ĂȘtre is order; he is a hero for those who believe that the police should be liberal and just; he is a hate figure for traditionalists and homophobes. He is one of those police officers who becomes more than just a uniform: he has integrity; he provokes emotion; he means something to Britain's gay community.

In 2003, as a police commander in the south London borough of Lambeth (a poor borough with high crime rates) he was also the public face of an experimental scheme (established in response to community demands to stop chasing kids with cannabis, instead to concentrate on class A drugs that are accompanied by crime) encouraging officers to warn those caught with cannabis for personal use and confiscate the drug instead of arresting them, saving hours of time that would otherwise have been spent on bureaucracy.

Allegations from his former partner of five years, paid £100,000 by the right-wing tabloid Mail on Sunday, that he had permitted his lover to smoke cannabis in the flat the couple shared, caused him to be moved from that job. His vehement denials of those allegations were vindicated; he did not face criminal or disciplinary charges, and was paid libel damages by the newspaper.

Coming out as he rose through the ranks was a decision that came at some personal cost. He has spoken about how his sexuality and views made him a target for other officers, how on the very day of his promotion to commander, an anonymous letter arrived in the internal post claiming he had misused a police car, 'and there are very few people who would know the day of my promotion board: that was the first indication of a serious attempt to undermine my position, that they - whoever they are - were out to get me.' There was also a call to the anonymous Crimestoppers phone line alleging that he tipped off a gay bar about a raid by the drugs squad, although no such raid was ever planned: once again, the caller was 'well informed'. Each accusation was judged malicious, but it hardly alters the fact that one or more of Paddick's colleagues wanted to ruin him.

Presently he is deputy assistant commissioner; he will soon be entitled to retire, having served for three decades. Gossip suggests he might like a seat in the House of Commons, but apparently he ruled that out at a careers day for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people, saying: 'I'm looking at what may happen when the current commissioner retires,' while hinting that the Liberal Democrats asked him if he'd consider being a candidate for London mayor.

"If you can come through what I've been through, retained your dignity, maintaining the position you've held throughout, then you can cope with most things. If there are any police forces out there looking for a chief constable, someone they know who won't buckle under pressure, well... I've been tried and tested."


fastlad said...

fuck the begrudgers, this man's story is an inspiration - it's what real courage looks like - thanks for posting it.

Ms C Qrisp said...

Gracious thanks for reading.

Fabien said...

Oh Brian... marry me!