The top police officer whose force was named Britain's most gay-friendly employer last night praised his officers for accepting changes that "would not have seen the light of day" ten years ago.

Staffordshire Police, which launched a successful recruitment drive for gay and lesbian cadets and pioneered a scheme to give a more accurate picture of homophobic attacks, said it was "absolutely delighted" with the award from gay activist charity Stonewall.

One in ten of the force's 2,309 police officers is lesbian or gay, almost twice the six per cent of the general population estimated in a recent Treasury report to be homosexual.

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The award marks a turnaround for the force, which was ridiculed in 1997 for sending officers into public toilets in a Stoke-on-Trent park to spy through peep holes on gay men engaging in sex acts. They made 21 arrests. Now the force has its own staff association looking after the interests of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.

Staffordshire chief constable John Giffard said the title was a reward for work reassuring the gay community as well as improving the lives of staff.

He said: "In the last five or six years we have worked hard to develop meaningful diversity policies and support networks, and strong links with local gay organisations.

"We have a staff association which is dedicated to looking after the interests of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. A decade ago such efforts and initiatives would not have seen the light of day.

"You might have found reference to 'diversity' in the footnote of a policy, but probably not policies dedicated to the issue itself.

"Attitudes and behaviours within the organisation towards all minorities have changed dramatically, and I am confident that gay people who contact us as victims would recount big changes for the better in our operational approach."

Stonewall, which runs the Workplace Equality Index, said a factor in Staffordshire's success was its record of promoting lesbian and gay officers to a high level.

Staffordshire also pioneered a scheme called True Vision, intended to give an accurate picture of levels of homophobic, as well as racist and religious, attacks by inviting people to report crimes anonymously.

IBM, the computing firm, came second in the list of 100 most gayfriendly employers, while the Department for Work and Pensions and Manchester City Council tied for third.