Most Costa Rican police officers don’t believe in equal rights for LGBT community

October 10, 2014

Only a quarter of Costa Rican police officers believe that LGBT people have the same rights under the law as straight Costa Ricans, says a new study.

The Center for Research and Promotion of Human Rights in Central America (CIPAC) interviewed 446 police force employees across the country. The survey evaluated police force attitudes towards LGBT people in Costa Rica. Questions ranged from general opinions of LGBT people to inquiries on police treatment of members of the gay community.

The study showed some progressive results. A high number of respondents said they believed the LGBT community was mistreated in society (75.2 percent), that LGBT people should be allowed to work anywhere without restriction (86.7 percent) and that they were friends with a an LGBT person (72.2 percent). According to Francisco Madrigal, CIPAC’s political director, these numbers are similar to opinion polls conducted in the general Costa Rican population.

However, other statistics were troubling for gay rights activists, such as that 25.2 percent of respondents said the LGBT community has fewer rights than heterosexuals. In addition, only 25 percent of respondents had received information about LGBT community during their time with the police.

“That data is worrisome because those are the kinds of things that are seen to directly correlate with violence against LGBT people.” Madrigal said.

Some officers said they would not even help out in a situation where a colleague was harassing an LGBT person. When asked if they would intervene if a police officer was physically attacking a person for being gay, 22.2 percent said no. Another 17.7 percent said they would consider soliciting a bribe from a person because they were gay or allow a fellow officer to do so.

No statistics are kept about police violence against LGBT people. The perceptions study is the first of its kind in Costa Rica.

“This is really a first step,” Madrigal said. “Eventually we are hoping to include a specific unit on sexual diversity at the National Police Academy.”

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