Communities in Preston came out to thank a local hero who has stood by them in their campaign against hate crime
A popular Preston bobby has been hailed a superhero for his work battling hate crime in Lancashire.
PC Stuart Rutlidge, who retired last week, has created projects tackling the issue which have been rolled out nationally.
The 52-year-old Prestonian born and bred, has dedicated the last 10 years of his service to Lancashire Constabulary encouraging victims of hate crime to report it.
Melanie Close, chief executive at Disability Equality North West, says she and her team will be sad to say goodbye to PC Rutlidge after his immense support to people with disabilities.
She said: “PC Stuart Rutlidge has been a real advocate for disabled people, and those form other minority communities, in tackling hate crime and raising awareness of it for almost 10 years. I think he’s been in the Police for around 30 years.
“Stuart has worked internally, training police officers and challenging where cases haven’t had the hate crime marker put on them, he has also worked tirelessly with organisations such as ours, talking to, training and supporting local disabled people to ensure they know what hate crime is, that its unacceptable, and giving information on how to report it.
“He has helped so many people – a quick look at the recent comments on our Facebook and Twitter pages will gave you a flavour of how well loved he is.
“Not all Superheroes wear capes, Stuart is our Hate Crime Hero.”
PC Rutlidge said he joined the police force as a tender university graduate in September 1988.
“I came straight out of university as a fresh faced naïve individual,” he says.
“My first post, the first job of my career, was in Burnley on the community beat.”
He was then moved to work in football intelligence.
“I used to follow them round the country”, says PC Rutlidge. “I did eight or nine years.”
Later in his career he relocated to the police headquarters as a staff officer to the chief constable.
It was around this time that he began covering hate crime and diversity in Preston, South Ribble and West Lancashire and it’s a job which has kept him busy for the last 10 years.
“Working with communities and working within minority groups has always been very close to my heart,” says PC Rutlidge, who is also a trustee on a local LGBT group.
“Over the years I have been very fortunate to work with an incredible range of people. A number of the projects were recognised nationally.
“When I first took up this role there was no literature or promotional material about what hate crime was or the impact it has on individuals and why you should report it.
“Lancashire United Against Hate Partnership initiative won awards.
“That was then taken up at a national level by the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.
“They commissioned us to run a national project which became Communities Against Hate.
“That’s been used nationally raising awareness and that’s been developed by other areas. There wasn’t a product out there that could be used for training purposes.”
PC Rutlidge says that there are five main categories of hate crime – that which is directed against people with a different sexual orientation, religion and belief, race and ethnicity, transgender identity and disability.
Reflecting on the groups which are victimised he says: “From the race point of view people are quite well switched on. That goes back to the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
“Eighty per cent of hate crimes that you get are probably race-related.
“Then LGBT is the next highest – they get about 10 per cent and then there are the others. That was one of the reasons that I first started this job."
“One of the areas of hate crime which is under reported is hate crime against people with disabilities.
“It’s because quite often people have had a bad experience with the police.
“Or they say it happens every day and they don’t want to put the police to any trouble.
“The hate crime mostly revolves around name calling.
“It’s important to report it because it can escalate into something more serious very quickly.
“Some disabled people have experienced it all of their lives so they accept it as day to day life and they just get on with it.
“Reports from people who have a disability have actually increased but I think we are scratching the surface of what’s going on out there.
“I’m really proud of what we have achieved in the awareness raising campaign – that’s been a highlight.
“The other day I was at an event where people had come together to say good luck and introduce the person replacing me and people came up to me saying that because of what I had done I’d changed their lives.”
And what will retirement hold for PC Rutlidge?
He is not sure yet how it will play out but he says: “I think its something you need to step out before you can re-establish yourself.
“I can see myself getting involved in community issues.
“I’ve got to take a bit of time to myself. I have not planned anything - I want to be a free spirit. It’s a big world out there.
“One of the benefits of the role is that its been very fulfilling.
“The police service gets a lot of bad rep but a lot of people do it because they have a genuine desire to make a difference. “
Thanking PC Rutlidge for his work with Preston Pride, chairman Debs Bradshaw said: "Stuart has been an amazing ambassador for the LGBT community and as a diversity officer, always went the extra mile to support all communities with his H8 crime support and diversity inclusion work.
"Stuart was always available when needed and his community cohesion work was outstanding. His passion and commitment was exemplary, especially with his LGBT work.
"He is an ultimate professional in all that he does and he will be truly missed."