Toronto
3 min

A yardstick for Hogtown

Top Ottawa cop leaves impressive gay legacy

WHY NOT IN TORONTO? Ottawa Police Chief Brian Ford (left) poses with big homo - and high ranking civilian - David Pepper, the force's director of community development. Credit: Shawn Scallen

Wondering what to look for in a new Toronto police chief?



Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Chief Brian Ford has also quit his job – but unlike the lacklustre of Hogtown’s David Boothby, Ford will leave behind an impressive legacy of gay-positive works. One that Toronto can learn from.



And unlike other progressive police chiefs, Ford says he was not forced out by conservatives.



“I leave with the satisfaction of knowing this is my own personal decision. It’s not based on what anybody thinks or what anybody’s done or anything like that.”



Ford’s last day on the job is Jun 10, 2000. And he says his police services board will likely continue to be supportive of community-oriented policing.



Ford’s progressive views on the decriminalization of prostitution and marijuana use – along with his efforts to reach out to the gay and lesbian communities, among others – became a sore point for the police association which represents Ottawa’s rank and file.



Ford isn’t alone in being the target of attacks from within the ranks. In late June, Vancouver Police Chief Bruce Chambers was told that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Among other things, Chambers was criticized for attending Vancouver Pride celebrations.



Ford hasn’t personally been on hand at Ottawa’s lesbian and gay Pride march, but each year he has provided a strong police presence in the parade.



Boothby’s never marched. The police presence he’s provided has been as security, not as participants.



Also here in Hogtown, the Toronto Police Association – following raids on The Bijou porn theatre – attacked the past “special deal” between senior brass and the gay community, arguing that there is a double standard.



So-called community policing doesn’t mean the gay community can choose which laws are enforced on “gay turf,” they say.



Ford disagrees.



“Yes, in some cases the community will decide what some of the areas of concern to the community are.



“I know some people will say all laws are to be enforced, but all laws aren’t enforced. There are certain laws you just don’t have the capability to enforce. They’re not meant to be enforced all the time. The community can set priorities for policing their community.



“We serve the public,” Ford says. “We have to work with the community and work through issues, and that’s what problem-oriented policing and problem-solving is all about.



In comparison, Chief David Boothby never returned calls from Xtra. He released a communiqué to the media: “The Toronto Police Service has faith in the judicial system and respects the Crown’s position not to prosecute in these matters,” he stated when the Bijou charges were dropped.



“Prohibited behaviour, as defined by the Criminal Code Of Canada, which occurs in public places will be investigated by our police service and where warranted, charges will be laid,” Boothby announced.



Under Ford’s leadership, Ottawa-Carleton has become one of the leading forces in policing hate crimes and in reaching out to and working with the lesbian and gay community, says out Regional Councillor Alex Munter.



“There is the risk of going backwards and losing many of the gains that have been made through the 1990s, if a police chief is hired who simply does not care about those things,” says Munter.



And the politician says Ford’s work with queers has been cutting edge. “It’s part of a context. He’s also worked closely with racial minority communities; with the women’s community, and even district policing – geographic communities and neighbourhoods.”



“If you have someone who doesn’t share that overall philosophy, chances are we’re not going to do too well.”



Ford has also done something quite extraordinary that Toronto’s chief has not: the Ottawa force has a high ranking gay civilian, an activist of longstanding – reporting directly to the chief as his director of community development.



And Ford’s been attacked for that appointment, too.



The chief says that outreach to the queer community will continue and David Pepper won’t be fired upon his departure.



“He’s in there solid,” says Ford. “Certainly the community and the board will make certain of that, I’m quite sure.”



“David’s appointment isn’t political. It’s not like when a politician hires an aide and a new politician comes in. David’s position is a permanent position within the police service.”