A History of Aurora
The history of LGBT and police liaison meetings in Croydon is a chequered one. The Croydon CHE group met with the from about 1978, and under its new name of CAGS (Croydon Area Gay Society) was represented on the CCPCG from 1991.
It seems that there was an LGBT policing forum prior to March 2003, which didn’t really get off the ground.
In March 2003 there were meetings between Croydon police’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) DI Downing and community members from the Croydon LGBT Forum and from CAGS, who wanted to re-start the process.
There were concerns as to what the nature and purpose of the group should be, and that it should be open to all LGBT people who live, work or socialise in Croydon. In particular other LGBT police forums had allowed themselves to avoid some policing issues by becoming closed and insular. CAGS committed money to publicise a forum open to all, if Croydon police were not prepared to supported a group on this basis.
The first meeting preceded the anniversary of the murder of Geoffrey Windsor and an extensive appeal for witnesses by police. This was raised at the end of the meeting, and it was felt that the posters (already printed) characterised the “gay community” as “cruisers”. These observations were very valuable to police who were able to produce amended posters for the subsequent meeting, and this perhaps marks an early example of useful joint work in Croydon.
Members were also busy canvassing local transgender people about joining, and some interest was expressed, although they felt somewhat excluded by the focus on cruising issues – of no interest to most transgendered people. Unfortunately one trans couple were subjected to an unpleasant ordeal when leaving a ladies toilet a short time later, and returned to the group with the specific intention of doing something about the problem. The “Which Loo?” project was born.
A formal statement of Aims was almost completed, the group was named, an e-group was in place for communication and a one-page website was established. But toward the end of 2003, Croydon police underwent considerable re-organisation, and declined to meet for five months.
In 2004 responsibility for the group was transferred from the CID side to the partnership side of Croydon police’s business, under the management of Borough Liaison Officer Chief Inspector Morrell, with CSU input at meetings. On Tuesday 14th September 2004 the first meeting of the new Aurora group took place at Croydon Town Hall. The meeting consisted of ten people, the chair and minute taking being provided by police. A number of issues were discussed, not least the desire to work together to build an atmosphere of openness and confidence with regard to local policing, and to build on the previous good work that had been done.
Since that time the meetings have continued every two months. A number of issues have been progressed such as “Which Loo?”, policing of local cruising venues, police surgeries, publicity, critical incidents and the inclusion of a representative from the police monitoring group GALOP. A website has been constructed and is developing well.
By early 2006 we agreed Procedures and Standing Orders, which allowed us to have an AGM in November and to advertise for officers and elect them. During that year we found that we had taken six significant initiatives that we could shout about (and a few more sensitive things that we did not advertise). We also found that our new Procedures and so on allowed us to apply for grants to do some more meaty projects.
In 2007 we applied for and received funding for what was to become the Croydon School Bullying Project, and worked on an event for the International Day Against Homophobia 2008.
In September 2008 there was a motion to close Aurora on the grounds of insufficient people turning up at meetings, but the motion was rejected, and attendance at meetings subsequently increased.
In early 2009 the police indicated that they no longer wished to be considered Officers of Aurora or take turns in chairing the meetings, and this led to a major revision of the governing documents: the new Constitution and Detailed Procedures were adopted at the April 2009 Aurora meeting.
Since then, Aurora has continued to meet every two months without fail, and has been the focus for discussions between the police and the local LGBT Community on a wide range of issues, as well as receiving reports from the police of local homophobic incidents.
We hope that Aurora will continue to expand and build upon the good work that has been done, to help make Croydon a better place to live, work or socialise in.