Different is good. We embrace different.” This is the message of Lancashire Police Deputy Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, who is keen to champion the county’s lesbian, gay, bi sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
As a senior officer, equality issues in the workplace and in the community form part of his daily work.
But it was his own personal experience that has driven him to champion improvements in the county’s policing response to the LGBT community, and to make a difference for them at work, home and in their communities.
He witnessed first hand the issues faced by a close relative who revealed he was gay.
Since his appointment as deputy chief constable he has overseen the force’s work with Stonewall, a charity that campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bi sexual and transgender people.
The charity trains senior staff in organisations to help them connect with, influence and enable others in their communities and ensure they offer inclusive, equal and inspiring environments for gay people.
Lancashire Police has a dedicated LGBT community policing team, and is now considered in the top 200 employers globally by Stonewall.
The team works closely with members of the LGBT community to tackle hate crime and ensure the constabulary are providing the best possible service.
It is this type of commitment which led his staff to nominate him for the Barclays Ally Award in the LGBT Foundation Heroes Award scheme, which he won last week. The awards recognise the outstanding contributions of individuals, groups and organisations that have made a difference to the lives of LGBT people in the past year.
Speaking from his office at police headquarters in Hutton he says: “I was really pleased and surprised, and a bit humbled because the award is really down to the great people in our organisation who have been working with the LGBT community and going from strength to strength.
“They do it with little recognition and just get on with it.
“I have a personal insight into the issue with people close to me, so I have a particular take on it.
“What we want from our workforce is people who bring their experiences to work so they can work with people in the community.
“Going back 30 years , if you asked the gay community about policing it probably wouldn’t be a great story, and we still haven’t got it all right yet. But the more people in the force we embrace, the more people outside policing feel they can relate to our organisation.”
It is his second award in the space of a month. The married dad was awarded the Queen’s Policing Medal in the New Year Honours list.
He joined Lancashire Constabulary in 1991, beginning his career in what was Western Division. He was later promoted to Chief Superintendent in March 2006 while based at Lancashire Police headquarters.
In 2013, he led the policing operation, with Greater Manchester Police, for the trial of Dale Cregan and others at Preston Crown Court and more recently he has been the Gold Commander for the policing response to the floods in the county.