The police liaison committee for Toronto queers has not been consulted about the appointment of a new chief, and that hasits members worried they’re being frozen out of the process.
“The committee has not been asked for its input,” says Howard Shulman, the co-chair of what is officially named the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans] Community Police Consultative Committee. “I would have hoped we would have been, given that we’re a consultative committee.”
Shulman says the failure of the Toronto Police Services Board, which oversees the force and will select the new chief, to consult the committee may reflect an unwillingness to listen to what queers have to say.
“It speaks to a lot of things, in terms of what sort of involvement they want in the public process and who from the public they want to speak.” Julian Fantino, chief since 2000, finished his job this week after the board chose not to renew his contract.
Shulman says the committee’s priority is a new chief who is willing to act on the sensitivity training a court ordered police to implement as part of a settlement of the Pussy Palace bathhouse raid in 2000.
“We’re looking for someone who will support the sensitivity training and be more amenable,” says Shulman. “The police being a very hierarchical organization, if there is not approval of such measures from the top, the training won’t be taken seriously.”
Shulman’s concerns about a chief able to work with communities seems to be shared by many others.
At a public meeting held by the board, speakers said the new police chief needed to focus on reestablishing community policing, including putting more foot and bike patrols on the streets and seeking more input from various communities into policing methods. There was consensus that the new chief would need to crack down hard on the practice of racial profiling, as well as corruption within the police force.
Participants also urged the board to seek out a chief who had demonstrated experience in working with and learning from diverse groups.
The meeting, held on Feb 15 at Toronto City Hall, attracted about 110 people. The meeting was the third of four public consultation meetings for the selection of the new chief of police.
Rather than the normal public free-for-all, the meeting was divided into 12 smaller groups, a format which allowed for more input, but which removed the opportunity to express specific concerns. The groups were asked two questions: What should the new chief’s priorities be, and what should matter most about a new chief?
The 12 groups reached very similar conclusions, and according to city councillor and board chair Pam McConnell, similar concerns had been heard at the previous two meetings.
McConnell also addressed concerns about the board itself. McConnell said the board is not as diverse as it should be, but that the recent additions of city appointee Alok Mukherjee and provincial appointee Hamlin Grange added two members who both belong to minority communities and work in areas related to diversity.
McConnell said the board is taking the public recommendations seriously. She said the board will be collating the information and publishing it on their website. She says the only restrictions that have been placed on any possible candidates is that they must be Canadian citizens and sworn police officers.
McConnell did not lay out any specific timeline as to when a new police chief would be hired. Former deputy chief Mike Boyd is currently acting as interim chief.