3 min

Cop first, lesbian second

Const Cheryl Leggett gets upset by drugs, gay-bashing

NO POSTER COP. Cheryl Leggett says she wants to break down distrust between police and the gay and lesbian community. She promises to stay in her position at the Davie St Community Policing Centre for at least two years. Credit: Robin Perelle

Call her Cheryl, call her the new officer at the Davie St Community Policing Centre (CPC), call her an out lesbian-just don’t call her a poster cop for the queer community.

Const Cheryl Leggett, the new cop on the block, may be an out lesbian but she’s a cop first, she says.

Leggett took Const Steve Rai’s place at the Davie CPC in February. Now, she wants to help build trust between the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and the gay community. Many community members still distrust the police, she says. “What I want to be a part of is rebuilding that trust and really working with the community.”

But don’t expect any special treatment just because you’re gay, she cautions. “My job is police first. That’s my first hat that I wear when I’m at work.”

The law is the law, she says, and no one is exempt.

That means gay men having sex on the trails in Stanley Park had better watch out if someone complains on Leggett’s beat. “If somebody is offended and it’s a problem, we have to deal with it,” she says. She won’t necessarily press charges, but she will investigate.

But catching men on the trails is not high on Leggett’s list of priorities. “Why put resources into something where there’s no victim?” she asks.

Drugs, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter.

Leggett says she won’t hesitate to call in the drug squad if she finds drugs in the gay bars. “It’s not something I’d ever turn a blind eye to. I have no problem saying that quickly because it’s against the law.”

And she doesn’t just mean hard drugs, either. “Drugs are what’s destroying our society,” she says. “If I’m working and somebody is smoking a joint or shooting up, they’re going to lose their [drugs].”

Though, again, she may not press charges, Leggett says she has no tolerance for people who smoke up in public. That’s a “blatant disregard for the law,” she says.

The whole subject is a raw one for Leggett these days. Her 16-year-old daughter ran away from their Maple Ridge home a few months ago and hasn’t come back since. Leggett suspects drugs.

The last few months have been difficult, she admits. But she feels good about her new post at the Davie CPC. “When I come into work I de-stress.”

Still, some subjects “hit a nerve.” Like drugs.

And gay-bashing.

“I’m part of that group,” she explains. “It could be my daughter, who is gay, it could be me, it could be my friends. I can’t deny that I have a personal interest in this. That would be lying.”

Still, gay-bashing is only “one of many” priorities Leggett hopes to focus on in her new post.

And despite the gay community’s repeated requests for an out gay officer at the Davie CPC, Leggett says she wasn’t picked because she’s a lesbian. Until recently, she drove a squad car in the West End and had never even thought about working in a CPC. Then Rai asked if she’d consider stepping in for him. She took over a few months later.

But the fact that she’s gay had little to do with her selection, she insists. Though Leggett is quick to acknowledge that having a gay officer in the heart of the gay Village is an advantage to both the community and the VPD, she says it shouldn’t be the most important thing. “Skills first,” she explains. “The rest is a bonus. It’s icing on the cake.”

Now that she’s here, Leggett plans to stay for at least two years. Continuity is important in community policing, she notes. It’s frustrating for the public to have to get to know a new cop every few months and teach them the area’s issues again. “You’re not doing the program any service by doing it in short stints.”

Leggett is the fourth officer in the last three years to hold the position at the Davie CPC. She says she hasn’t requested any transfers yet.

As for the future of the CPC itself-and the VPD’s community policing program as a whole-Leggett says she isn’t privy to that information. “Nobody knows yet,” she says of Chief Jamie Graham’s restructuring plans.

Graham is expected to announce his plans sometime this spring. The VPD is unlikely to be able to sustain all 18 of its existing CPCs, he told Xtra West in a recent interview.

Leggett says she has no control in the matter.

She’ll just try to make herself accessible to her new neighbours for as long as she can. “My goal is to be very visible,” she says, encouraging people to come up to her on the street and share their thoughts and concerns.

Just call her Cheryl.