In a letter sent to the Peter Tatchell Foundation, Commissioner Angela McLaren said the force apologised for “the damaging ways laws were enforced against the community by policing historically”.
She acknowledged that the “persecution of the LGBT+ community took place as the result of legislation which was, thankfully, abolished”.
“We accept that attitudes towards the LGBT+ community and policing practices that occurred at that time were particularly harmful,” Ms McLaren added.
The letter makes her the fourth British police chief to apologise for historic persecution, following the heads of the Metropolitan, Sussex and South Yorkshire forces.
Ms McLaren said City of London Police now places “equity and inclusion at the heart of all we do” and the force is working to “improve trust and confidence”.
“We will not tolerate those who would discriminate, victimise, or marginalise members of our communities and will respond robustly where these behaviours are identified,” she vowed.
“My hope is that this recognition of failings and harm to the LGBT+ community, under the now abolished legislation, demonstrates our commitment to strengthen our relationships with the LGBT+ community and all other communities we serve.”
In response renowned gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell praised Ms McLaren as a “commendable” commissioner and said the apology will “win much appreciation and praise from the LGBT+ community”.
He said: “Having drawn a line under past police homophobia, I hope this will boost LGBT+ confidence in the police and encourage more LGBTs to report hate crime, domestic violence and sexual assault.”
The Peter Tatchell Foundation is petitioning for every chief constable in the UK to say sorry for past homophobic persecution.
“We are not asking the police to apologise for enforcing the law, but to apologise for the often illegal and abusive way they enforced it,” Mr Tatchell said.
“Officers raided gay bars, clubs and even private birthday parties, insulting LGBTs as ‘poofs’ and ‘queers’. Police harassed LGBTs leaving gay venues and arrested same-sex couples for kissing, cuddling and holding hands, right up until the 1990s.”
In a letter to Mr Tatchell, Sir Mark acknowledged that while police had to enforce the law at the time when homosexuality was criminalised, the way this was sometimes done had “failed the community and persist(s) in the collective memory of LGBT+ Londoners of all ages”.
“Recent cases of appalling behaviour by some officers have revealed that there are still racists, misogynists, homophobes and transphobes in the organisation, and we have already doubled down on rooting out those who corrupt and abuse their position.”
It added: “I am clear that there is much for us to do. I am sorry to all of the communities we have let down for the failings of the past and look forward to building a new Met for London, one all Londoners can be proud of and in which they can have confidence.”