5 min

‘Furious’ at police

Calgary Chief refuses to meet with gays after raid

'PRETTY UPSETTING': Even straight cop Cst Doug Jones, the respected police liaison to the gay community, says his force needs to educate itself about gay sex culture, including bathhouses. Jones acknowledges that the raid has undermined his credibility and dealt a blow to the relationship between the force and the gay community. Credit: Gareth Kirkby

“It’s outrageous,” says Calgary gay activist Stephen Lock. First, police raid Calgary’s only gay bathhouse, then the police chief won’t even meet with the community to talk about it.

“How are we going to get any answers if the brass of the Calgary Police Service (CPS) won’t meet with us?” Lock asks angrily.

“This police service has always prided itself on its accessibility, its openness. But when the crunch is on, suddenly they close ranks-and we can’t get any answers.”

Lock, who sits on the police-community liaison committee, has a lot of unanswered questions. For starters, he wants to know who authorized the Dec 12 raid on Goliath’s Sauna and the two-month undercover investigation leading up to it-and why. And he wants to know why members of the community liaison committee, including the liaison officer, were never consulted.

Lock was hoping to get some answers from Chief Jack Beaton at the liaison committee’s upcoming emergency meeting on Dec 19. But Beaton refused to attend.

One of Beaton’s spokespeople told Richard Gregory, the civilian co-chair of the committee, that Beaton won’t meet with the committee because the matter is now before the court and charges are pending.

Keith Purdy, co-chair of Calgary Pride, got the same response. He, too, tried to schedule a meeting with Beaton-to no avail. And he’s “fuming mad.”

The police chief’s refusal to meet with the gay community “just increases the outrage,” Purdy says.

Lock agrees. “I think it’s abysmal that he is, in essence, refusing to meet with the liaison committee and the leadership of the gay community.

“What has [the Chief] got to hide?” Lock asks. “Why won’t he meet with us?”

Robert Palmer, another police spokesperson, says he wasn’t aware that the chief had been invited to any meetings. But Palmer doesn’t think the chief should attend the upcoming liaison committee meeting, anyway.

“We’re going to let the committee do its work. It was designed for this purpose,” Palmer told Xtra West. In other words, he says, the committee should meet, formulate some recommendations and send them through the proper channels.

That’s just ludicrous, Lock retorts angrily. The whole point of this emergency meeting is to speak to someone powerful enough to answer the community’s questions now.

Lock says he’s not about to let this go. He won’t rest until Beaton not only meets with the gay community but offers a full, public apology.

No word yet from the chief on that one.

Canada’s national gay lobby group thinks the chief owes Calgary gays an apology, too. Egale also wants assurances that, from now on, the liaison committee gets the “respect it is due.”

Lock and Purdy also want Beaton to order a full investigation into the raid on Goliath’s. But Palmer says that’s not likely to happen, either.

Nor does he think the charges will be dropped anytime soon, despite repeated requests from Calgary’s gay community and Egale. “We’ll let justice take its course,” Palmer says. “There are no plans to drop the charges.”

If this keeps up, Lock says he might have to resign from the liaison committee. “I will not be cast as an apologist for an organization that would do this,” he says.

Until the raid, Lock says he thought the liaison committee was truly in partnership with the police force. Now he’s not so sure. He can’t believe police didn’t even consult the committee on an issue of such obvious importance to the gay community-let alone take its views seriously at decision-making time.

Maybe the liaison committee was just an appeasement tool all along, Lock sighs.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

This is the second liaison committee, Lock explains. The first attempt fizzled many years ago when it became clear to the community that its members were “nothing more than patsies for the police.”

Lock says he won’t be party to an appeasement exercise. If he is to stay, he wants assurances that he is not wasting his time. “I want it to be worth my while,” he says. “I thought it was until this happened. [Now] I feel compromised.”

Cst Doug Jones, the CPS liaison officer, says he feels comprised too. “I’m finding it extremely difficult,” says Jones who, although straight, has worked hard over the last four years to win the respect of Calgary’s gay community.

Jones says he wasn’t consulted about the raid, either. He didn’t even know that an investigation was under way. Now, he says, his colleagues on the force have undermined his credibility.

This raid makes it clear that some people on the force don’t understand the importance of bathhouses to gay culture, Jones told Xtra West at a gay rodeo dance on Sat, Dec 14.

By the end of the weekend, Jones had been ordered to stop talking to the media.

Lock is furious.

“[Jones] has been muzzled,” he fumes. “It’s absolutely outrageous.”

If the chief won’t talk to the gay community then, at the very least, the designated liaison officer should, Lock says.

“I think [Jones] was being an embarrassment to the police so they silenced him,” he continues. “They’re starting to pull the wagons in and that blue line is getting very tight.”

It’s a significant shift in perspective for Lock. A month ago, he would have described the CPS as one of the most “proactive and pro-gay police departments in North America.” It was a sentiment widely shared throughout Calgary’s gay community.

Now, many gays are wondering if they’ve been deluding themselves all along.

Granted, the CPS has implemented many gay-positive policies in the last few years. In addition to the liaison committee and officer, the force also recruits potential officers at the gay rodeo, attends all major gay community events and incorporates gay issues, such as same-sex domestic abuse, into its training program.

That’s not enough, Lock says now. The CPS needs to get its head around gay sex, too.

Sure, they’ve demonstrated a willingness to address identity issues like spousal abuse and are willing to recognize gays as a minority group on par with blacks or Jews. But what about sex, he asks?

“Sex is part of gay culture,” Lock says. “What separates us from anybody else in society is the kind of sex that we have. It’s the very thing that makes us unique.”

Bathhouse sex is an important part of that gay culture, he adds-and the police have no business interfering.

Gay and lesbian studies professor Kevin Anderson agrees. “It’s absolutely disgusting and degrading to the gay culture what took place here [in the raid],” says the University of Calgary professor. This raid will turn people against the police, he predicts.

Police across Canada know better than to raid gay bathhouses, Lock says. With few exceptions, police have generally steered clear of the community’s bathhouses ever since the Toronto raids of 1981, which heralded a new era in Canadian gay activism.

Now, Lock is worried that the raid against Goliath’s will herald a new era of its own.

What if Chief Beaton, who took over the CPS about two years ago, wants to steer the force away from its old liberal leanings and onto a more conservative path? Lock asks.

Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier isn’t offering much reassurance, either. Lock and Purdy headed a small gay delegation to meet with Bronconnier right before Xtra West went to press on Dec 19.

The mayor was polite and offered vague promises to maintain the city’s good relationship with its gay community but, Lock says, he refused to talk about the raid itself because it’s before the court.

Lock says he understands that the mayor is not supposed to interfere in police matters, since he doesn’t sit on the police commission, but he’s still disappointed. He was hoping Bronconnier would recognize gay culture and speak out more strongly in favour of the gay community, and at least comment on the raid.

Calgary’s gay community obviously has its work cut out for it, Lock concludes.

* with files from Jeremy Hainsworth & Gareth Kirkby


Stephen Lock.