A former police officer in Australia has come forward with whistleblower accounts of police abuses against the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s.
Former New South Wales police officer Mark Higginbotham described the abuses on the local crime program Under Investigation, and said he was coming forward now to provide validation for the victims of these crimes.
“I’m doing it because I want the people who are victims of this conduct to be validated and for them to have their stories accepted,” Higginbotham revealed on the most recent episode of Under Investigation.
Higginbotham revealed police actively committed crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. He described his first exposure to the cops’ gay bashing when he was told to meet a group of six to ten officers at a local Sydney park while in uniform. Moore Park was a known hangout for gay men at the time, and the bathrooms were a favored cruising spot. Higginbotham quickly realized it was not a legitimate police operation, but instead a brazen and public mob attack by uniform police targeting gay men.
“Men were running from the toilets, scattering, and running away from the police,” Higginbotham recalled. “Eventually, I understood that this was beating gay people and it was beating gay people with aluminum truncheons and it was done by on-duty uniformed police.”
Higginbotham described the attacks by police as particularly brutal and terrifying, and he had few good things to say about the NSW police of the time.
“The beatings were merciless. They stopped when the offenders were finished, not when the victim was done,” Higginbotham said of the constabulary, adding, “Some of them were absolute animals.”
The cliffs surrounding the greater Sydney area in NSW were popular with members of the gay community looking to hook up during the 1970s and ’80s. Homophobic groups of men and youth would assault and often murder gay men, throwing them or forcing them to leap from the cliffs onto the rocks below. As many as 80 gay men were killed in the area during the period. Higginbotham revealed NSW police had a policy of refusing to investigate these crimes, which they termed “poofter bashings.”
He recalled one occasion where a gay man approached him on the street while Higginbotham was in uniform, reporting he had been a victim of gay bashing. When Higginbotham investigated and made an arrest in the case, his local supervisor flew into a rage.
“We don’t charge ‘poofter bashers’ here! What have you done?!” Higginbotham recalled the officer screaming at him.
When it was learned the victim was a local journalist who reported on the crime and arrest, Higginbotham was told he had brought shame on the police. Soon officers started calling him a faggot and refused to work with him. He eventually left the NSW police and took a job as a police officer in the state of Victoria.
Higginbotham said some of those hateful cops might still be on the force. He also made clear the gravity of the crimes committed by police of the time
“There’s no moral confusion about that. It’s ugly, it’s wrong. It’s criminal. And it’s done in police uniform,” said Higginbotham.