Officer joins small number of openly gay superintendents in Norfolk history

Lou Provart. PIC: Supplied by Lou Provart.

Lou Provart. PIC: Supplied by Lou Provart. - Credit: Archant

Since becoming a special constable while a student at the University of East Anglia (UEA) two decades ago, Lou Provart has risen through the ranks at Norfolk Constabulary.

Lou Provart. Supplied by Lou Provart.

Lou Provart. Supplied by Lou Provart. - Credit: Archant

But his career progression has not only been significant for him personally - it has also been hugely symbolic for so many others.

Mr Provart is one of few openly gay men to have reached the level of superintendent in more than 180 years of Norfolk Constabulary.

The 40-year-old was given the temporary promotion, which will see him oversee policing in King’s Lynn and Breckland areas of the county, last month and said it was an “incredibly proud” moment which he hoped “would serve as an inspiration to the next generation”.

He said: “I totally realise there will be those who think this is a non-issue but for LGBT people it’s a big issue.

Norfolk Police Inspector Lou Provart and the police cadets at King's Lynn and West Norfolk Pride 201

Norfolk Police Inspector Lou Provart and the police cadets at King's Lynn and West Norfolk Pride 2018. Picture: Taz Ali - Credit: Archant

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“There’s a need for people to be seen at senior levels of organisations to be role models for the next generation.”

The appointment was welcomed by Norfolk and Suffolk LGBT Police Network, which tweeted that the appointment was “a moment in history”.

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Mr Provart recognises it was a significant moment, particularly when reflecting how far both he and the police service have come in the years since he joined as a special constable, before becoming full-time.

He said: “I joined at a time when it was quite clear there was quite open homophobia within policing.

Lou Provart. PIC: Supplied by Lou Provart.

Lou Provart. PIC: Supplied by Lou Provart. - Credit: Archant

“It has progressed so far over the last 20 years.

“We as a service have fundamentally changed our attitude.”

Mr Provart welcomes the changes which have made it easier for those in minority groups to flourish and succeed but he said he has never allowed himself to be bowed and has always tried to be himself and as “authentic” as he can be.

He said that, going forward, it was even more important that the service as a whole allowed officers to be themselves.

He said: “We have to make sure that the police service represents the communities it serves and everyone feels they can be authentic as they can be.

“It’s important for people to be their absolute self 100 per cent of the time. You know if people do that they perform much better because they don’t have to spend energy trying to hide who they are and can just be open and honest.”

Having initially joined the Norfolk Special Constabulary in 2000, Mr Provart became a full-time officer in Norwich “for those early years in my service” working on public order patrols in the city as well as football duties.

He later became a detective in Norwich and south Norfolk before being seconded to the Major Investigation Team (MIT).

In 2010 he became a sergeant in Gorleston before he returned to CID.

After Simon Bailey became the force’s chief constable in 2013 Mr Provart became his staff officer before a stint at the National Crime Agency (NCA).

He went on to become temporary head of community safety in the county for 18 months before returning to an inspector role as a firearms commander.

Last year he became head of custody at Norfolk and Suffolk police - overseeing the 10 police investigation centres in both counties before being made temporary superintendent.

Mr Provart said: “My roots are in local policing, in providing visible, front-line policing to our communities.

“I’ve always found the magnet draws me back to local policing.”

He said he is looking forward to getting the grips of his new role.

But as well serving the communities he represents, Mr Provart is also keen to fly the flag for those who might never previously have thought policing was for them.

He said it was great that police numbers were increasing again, after years of austerity and cuts to the force, but insisted “we need to really make sure that those we’re recruiting do genuinely represent the communities that we serve”.

He urged those from diverse communities, who perhaps had never considered policing in the past, to put themselves forward.

He said: “The fundamental thing is the legitimacy of policing is sovereign - we only have legitimacy when we have the consent of the people and that has to be because we represent the communities we serve.”

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