Police apologize for harassing gays

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Norwegian police announced on Wednesday that they plan to officially apologize for unfair treatment and even harassment of homosexuals in earlier years. The police also apologized for having sparked fear among some gays and lesbians.

Large groups of police officers have marched in Pride Parades around Norway in full uniform, like this one in Oslo in 2014. Their banner here stresses that they are a police force serving everyone in the community regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the police have been planning to gather employees, students at the police academy and invited guests just before annual Pride celebrations begin later this month. Police announced that at the meeting, they want to apologize for the discrimination that occurred in earlier decades, “and for the fear that the police were part of creating.”

Norwegian gay rights activist Kjell Erik Øie said that police have been known to raid gatherings of gays in local parks, turning on lights and sirens, chasing people out of the parks and sparking panic. Nor would police respond when others raided the parks to harass and physically attack homosexuals.

The apology will be made when longtime gay rights champion Kim Friele will speak at police headquarters in Oslo. She told NRK that if anyone is planning an apology, the psychiatric community, the Parlliament and the defense department should join in. She noted that the police were “just a part” of the Norwegian society’s earlier rejection of almost anyone who wasn’t heterosexual.

“You have to remember that a survey showed that 80 percent of the Norwegian population thought homosexuals should neither be seen nor heard,” Fiele told NRK. She doesn’t think today’s police or others should take the blame for what happened in the past.

Svein Skeid, who has tracked the history of homosexuals in Norway, welcomes the police apology. “I have waited 25 years for this,” Skeid told NRK. “The wondeful gay police officers who have worked on this, Bård Stensli and Ulf Ruud Larsen, say there’s been a macho culture within the police. Some of that culture has definitely been sitting in the walls.”

Police now a role model
Film critic Brita Møystad Engseth told NRK that she thinks it’s most important to see how police behave now, and even set an example for tolerance. “The police in Norway have been a role model when they march in Pride Parades themselves in full uniform and support such events,” Engseth said, “That’s just as important as admitting to old sins.”

The Norwegian police’s apology comes shortly after the New York Police Department also apologized for how they acted during the raid on a gay bar in 1969 that launched the campaign for gay rights.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund