2 min

A bureaucratic halt at police board

While cop threatens Kyle Rae with lawsuit

MAKE WAVES. Hundreds of women marched at anti-violence Take Back The Night on Sep 28; women's bathhouse organizers condemned the police while at the microphone. Credit: Joshua Meles

The Toronto Police Services Board has agreed to make public a report into the raid on the women’s bathhouse – unless they can’t.

“We will make available whatever public portions can be made available,” promised chair Norm Gardner of a yet-to-be-completed, internal investigation into the Pussy Palace visit.

That was a significant watering down of the original motion, that the entire investigation be placed in the public record.

“We are here because we want answers about the police actions,” Pussy Palace organizer Carlyle Jensen said in a five-minute deputation, “and we cannot get a straight answer out of the police.

“This [raid] is another example of the longstanding police harassment of marginalized communities.”

Five male plainclothes police officers spent more than an hour in the wee hours of Sep 15 at the Pussy Palace (held at Club Toronto at Carlton and Mutual streets), saying they were on a liquor licence inspection. The bathhouse had a special, one-night only permit.

Jensen said that at one point, officers lingered in a (private) room for 20 minutes questioning two women. Jensen alleged that they searched private rooms and attempted to look through the personal belongings of a woman until she objected. Volunteers were “aggressively questioned.”

She asked why men were sent to a women’s bathhouse; how long in advance the visit was planned; who knew beforehand; and why they stayed so long.

“Many women at the event were deeply angered and traumatized.”

About 15 Pussy Palace supporters crowded the visitors gallery at police headquarters for the Sep 28 meeting; the room emptied out at the end of the deputation.

Jensen said later that the promise to perhaps release information doesn’t help one whit.

The original, tougher motion to make the entire report public was introduced by City Councillor Gordon Chong; he was then told by a high ranking police officer that such documents are “internal.”

Police board members were also told the report wasn’t yet completed, although there were press reports that police chief Julian Fantino (who didn’t attend the meeting as he was out of town) had asked to have the file on his desk before his departure for Sydney, Australia. He’ll be back in Toronto Tue, Oct 10.

Meanwhile, City Councillor Kyle Rae was served with a libel notice by a cop he identifies as Det Dave Wilson, the plainclothes police officer who led the Pussy Palace visit.

“They sent me a threat letter,” says Rae, who was vocal in his condemnation of the raid. “Am I cowed? No. I think it’s an attempt, but it takes a little more than that. This is about the police trying to mute a councillor.”

Rae says his comments were accurate: the beat cops went into the Pussy Palace without an okay from a high-ranking superior officer.

Nevertheless, Rae issued a press release Sep 27 that clarifies some of his earlier comments (in which he accused “rogue cops” of conducting a “panty raid,” for example).

“I am told that my remarks have caused the officers tremendous upset. It was not my intention to impugn the personal integrity of those police officers, nor would I have wished my choice of language to detract from the important issues of policing in the gay and lesbian community,” states the communique.