The transgender police officer helping young people 'struggling with gender identity'

'Being transgender helps massively in my work', PCSO Connor Freel tells ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang

A transgender police officer is using his own experience to support young people struggling with their gender identity or sexuality.

PCSO Connor Freel, who is based in Mold and has worked in the police for six years, said he is able to empathise with those in the community.

He has since become North Wales Police's LGBTQ+ staff support liaison officer - promoting, developing and sustaining the LGBT+ staff support network.

PCSO Freel said his background "helps massively" with his work.

"I've often gone out to incidents where young people have been getting in trouble for certain things," he explained.

"By just taking the time to sit down with them and ask what's going on, it turns out some of them are just struggling with their sexuality or gender identity - which is reflected in their behaviour.

"Once I've addressed their concerns, often, they feel more comfortable within themselves and begin to engage and support the police."

PCSO Freel said his own experience of prejudice also enables him to connect with those struggling.

"Having that empathy and being on the other side of maybe a little bit of prejudice, discrimination and ignorance, and just being able to understand from the other side of it," he said.

"I've had a few cases where people have been struggling with their gender identity of their sexuality, and it's really had an impact on either their mental health or their behaviour in general, and they've ended up coming to our notice.

"Once we've built up that relationship where we can provide support and even get them support with more appropriate agencies, you just see that change in behaviour."

PCSOs support police officers and share some of the same powers.

Three serving North Wales Police officers discuss the value of diversity

Sergeant Emma Prevete, who heads up PCSO Freel's team, said she believes having different perspectives is a real source of strength.

"Diversity is difference. People have their own difference, and that's important because we do need to reflect our communities.

"Looking at just the neighbourhood policing team in south Flintshire, we've got age, disability, gender, sexual orientation - a true reflection of the communities that we're policing."

PCSO Freel said he will continue promoting diversity until it becomes the norm.

"We'll keep talking about diversity until we don't need to talk about diversity anymore.

"We just need to change people's perceptions of what normal is and what different is until we're all just integrated."