Friday 18 October 2013

A transsexual police officer is suing her force for discrimination after she was allegedly forced to "out" herself in a call over the police radio. PC Emma Chapman, 44, has taken Essex Police to a tribunal claiming the force failed to help its officers understand transgender issues in what is believed to be the first case of its kind.

The police officer was born male and underwent a sex change in 1999 while she was serving as a volunteer officer with the force.

Four years later she became a full-time constable and now works on the force's response team. It is thought she is the only transgender officer in the force.

PC Chapman said at first she was open about the sex change, speaking on transgender issues at conferences, but she later became "frustrated" at the lack of support and understanding about the problems transsexuals faced.

She decided not to be "open" any longer and "stepped away" from dealing with transgender issues in 2009.

Her claim against Essex Police - which disputes the allegations - centres on three incidents when she had to speak to the police force's control room via her radio handset.

According to legal documents, seen by the BBC, PC Chapman says that on the first occasion, in October 2012, the operator did not believe who she was, saying she had a "male voice".

In her witness statement, the police constable said she felt a combination of "alarm and distress" saying she was forced to say that she was a transsexual.

She said: "I felt very embarrassed and desperate. The incident took my breath away."

PC Chapman said she was left feeling "very distressed" that she'd had to "out" herself over a radio channel that was listened to by hundreds of officers and staff.

She reported what had happened but claims Essex police failed to carry out a full investigation and interview the control room operator.

“The radio is also a lifeline at times and I should not have to feel hesitant or anxious about using it,” she said.

The legal papers claim there were two more incidents in June this year when control room staff questioned her identity.

She said: "I felt a growing sense of apprehension whenever I had to use the radio, concerned that there may be further, similar incidents."

PC Chapman, who's a Police Federation constables representative in Essex, is being supported by the federation in her action.

The officer said the incidents created an "intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment" for her to work in.

She is seeking compensation of around £3,000 for injury to her feelings and a declaration of discrimination and wants the force to improve the way it deals with transgender issues.

Essex Police said it "disagreed" with PC Chapman's assertions and was contesting the case.

A spokesman said the force accepted the radio conversations took place but the force disputes the "precise wording and tone" said to have been used.

The case was heard at the East London Tribunal Court last week after PC Chapman turned down an out-of-court settlement.

A decision is expected in the next few months.

Source - London Evening Standard


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