THE rainbow flag is being flown at Merseyside Police HQ today, ahead of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on Thursday, May 17.

On May 17, 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders and International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) has been celebrated on that date across the world ever since.

Merseyside Police will be flying the rainbow flag until Friday, May 18.

Assistant Chief Constable Julie Cooke and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Cllr Emily Spurrell raised the flag at Merseyside Police headquarters in Canning Place today alongside other partners.

The theme this year is alliances for solidarity.

Assistant Chief Constable Julie Cooke said: "Flying the rainbow flag is a visible sign of our dedication to eradicating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Merseyside.

"This forms part of our larger commitment to tackling hate crime in all its forms and we want the message to be clear to victims and offenders that offences involving disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity will not be tolerated by Merseyside Police.

"The force will be represented at the annual Navajo Awards Ceremony on May 17, an event the force has been involved in for a number of years.

"The Navajo Charter mark, which the force holds, is awarded in recognition of dedication to improve equality and celebrate diversity and is built into the foundations of the force’s Community First model."

The Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Emily Spurrell, is among those speaking at the awards ceremony.

Detective Constable Tracy O'Hara chairman of police's LGBT network, added: "Showing our visible support for International day against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia clearly demonstrates our commitment to eradicate crimes perpetrated against Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender people.

"We take all forms of hate crime seriously. Hate Crime continues to be under-reported and by flying our flag we are encouraging people to report all crimes and incidents to us.

"It is clear to me that by working with our partner agencies, the PCC, community engagement teams and the CPS we can bring offenders to justice, provide support to victims and continue our work.

"This is the ninth year we have flown the Rainbow flag and we do this to demonstrate that we are an inclusive diverse workforce where we can all be ourselves. I am proud to work for an organisation that has these values."

Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Emily Spurrell said: "In a world where same sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries, and many gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people still live with oppression every day, the effect of lifting the rainbow flag and seeing it fly proudly over Merseyside Police headquarters should not be underestimated.

"It is an act of solidarity, of support and of comradeship. It also sends out a powerful message that Merseyside Police are committed to equality and diversity and, from the very top, recognise the needs of Merseyside’s LGBTIQ community and their own LGBTIQ staff.

"I hope it is also a sign to the community just how seriously Merseyside Police takes incidents of hate, and that they will take robust action against anyone who caught carrying out acts of hate.

"If, for any reason, there are any people out there who still don't feel comfortable contacting Merseyside Police directly, I would urge them to contact Stop Hate UK. Stop Hate are an independent charity who offer support and guidance 24/7 to anyone affected by hate."