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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Anti-gay police claim by cleared sergeant
West Midlands Police HQ
Senior police officers are accused of being homophobic
A gay police sergeant accused senior officers of being homophobic after he was cleared of a "malicious" assault charge.

Bernard McEldowney, 43, an officer in the West Midlands force, said the "very weak" case was only pursued because of the anti-gay attitude of senior officers.

The sergeant was acquitted of the assault charge brought after a suspected drug dealer alleged he was attacked in the custody suite of Acocks Green police station, Birmingham, in July last year.

Sgt McEldowney said a decision to suspend him from duties following the allegation was taken because he was openly gay.

Homophobic attitudes

"I believe that my removal was related to my sexuality.

"If you are going to represent the whole community, we need to be able to show that community that there are lesbians and gays in the police," he said.

"It seems that senior officers can't cope with that.

"I believe homophobia may have influenced the decision to suspend me."

Sgt McEldowney, an anti-drug officer working in Moseley, Birmingham, said he expected support from fellow officers but was instead undermined by the suspension.

Sgt Bernard McEldowney
Sgt McEldowney: "Officers can't cope with gays"
He said senior officers had changed his duties six times in two years, which he said was the result of their embarrassment at an openly gay officer patrolling the streets.

The officer, who lives near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, said he was "very, very surprised" that files on the case had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

He said the evidence against him was "very weak" and there were apparent contradictions between witnesses.

District Judge Jonathan Charles dismissed the assault charge on Thursday following a two-day trial at Wolverhampton Magistrates Court.

Sgt McEldowney said very few gay officers in the West Midlands force were able to be open about their sexuality.

"It's OK if you stay in the closet.

"Of the shaking-it-all-about type, there are very, very few," he said.

He stressed that he encountered no homophobia from his peers and also that there were some senior officers who have no problem with gay people.

The trial was told that the officer, then an acting inspector, twisted the nose of the suspect after a heated verbal exchange.

The officer, who denied common assault, said he had merely raised his hand and told the suspect to be quiet after being subjected to a barrage of abuse.

The sergeant, who has an unblemished 18-year record, is pursuing an employment tribunal claim against the force, alleging he was discriminated against.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police said: "We refute any suggestion of discrimination against this officer.

"Dealings with the officer are a private matter between the force and him."

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