Openly gay superintendent proud to be a 'trailblazer' to follow in Norfolk
One of the county's first openly gay male superintendents has spoken about the obstacles he has faced in his career and his new temporary role covering West Norfolk and Breckland.
Lou Provart, 40, will be taking over from supt Dave Buckley for at least six months after the latter was moved to Norfolk Constabulary's headquarters at Wymondham for the pandemic period.
Born and bred in Norfolk, Mr Provart is passionate about the county which he has described as the best in the UK.
Although there is a realisation policing has "a chequered history" when it comes to LGBT rights, Mr Provart believes there have been "huge strides" over the last 20 years.
The former University of East Anglia student said: "It is important for people to see communities being represented and visible. I am very proud to be completely open because I think it will do a lot people good.
"The police service have a high degree of equality into its system now. We are very lucky in the UK with the nature of how policing is structured. I would say I had some challenges when I first started in the police. There was a reasonable amount of open homophobia, perhaps not to the extent I felt unsafe."
Mr Provart said he is happy to be "blazing a trail" in Norfolk and hopes to inspire future generations.
And he believes other sectors of society would benefit from a more open culture including professional football where homosexuality is sometimes said to be a taboo subject.
"I believe if there is a Premier League player who says they want to be themselves and wants to be open then that player will receive an outpouring of public support and generate a huge cultural shift," Mr Provart said.
As part of his role as district commander for the West Norfolk and Breckland districts, Mr Provart will be responsible for the provision of local policing, neighbourhood policing, and crime investigation, thereby ensuring vulnerable people get the support they need during the pandemic period.
Reflecting on the changing nature of the role, Mr Provart said there has been "a seismic change in the nature of crime" towards more hidden aspects such as online fraud, domestic abuse and County Lines .
The superintendent described the exploitation of young men through County Lines as a form of modern slavery in which the vulnerable victims are considered to be trafficked throughout the UK.
And he said there has been "really tight cooperation" as the police service adapts to the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Provart highlighted the police are still able to provide "first-class responses" in an emergency despite the virus tightening its grip on society.
He also urged the public to consider the actions they take in order to protect vulnerable people who are most at risk from the virus.
Mr Provart's team are setting up virtual community meetings to brief key partners on policing over the next six months.
Having started his career as a special constable whilst studying at university, Mr Provart was promoted to a sergeant before becoming a custody sergeant.
In 2013, he was promoted to inspector and became the staff officer to Norfolk's chief constable Simon Bailey before being seconded to the National Crime Agency to help develop the strategic response to online indecent image sharing in the UK.
He then returned to local policing from 2015, becoming head of custody for Norfolk and Suffolk Police a year later.