3 min

Lack of confidence

Bashline volunteer 'disheartened'

Credit: Xtra West files

The gay man behind the now-dismantled Bashline says he’s disheartened by his experiences with the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

Jack Herman ran the Bashline single handedly for months before finally throwing in the towel a few weeks ago. Now, he’s wondering if it was ever worth the effort.

Herman joined the Bashline a year ago, right after Aaron Webster was murdered in Stanley Park. He took calls, checked messages and encouraged people to call 911 whenever they got gay-bashed. He also wrote his own detailed reports when callers refused to call the police-which happened a lot, he says.

A lot of people in the gay community, particularly Indo- and Asian-Canadian men, still won’t call 911 because they don’t expect police to treat them respectfully, Herman says.

“As much as I don’t want to slam the cops, my concern is for the victims,” he says. “The victims are saying they’re unhappy with the police.”

Some victims did call 911 only to call the Bashline back later with angry tales of poor treatment. “I haven’t heard a lot of good news stories,” Herman says.

The level of distrust is especially strong in the Davie Village, he notes. Many gays and lesbians living in the West End still lack confidence in the VPD-even as the number of bashings in the area continues to escalate.

There has been a significant increase in the number of reported West End bashings involving cars, vans and SUVs, Herman says, looking at the last year of entries in the Bashline’s logbook.

That’s the kind of information Herman thought the VPD would be interested in, especially after a man was murdered and rumours placed a jeep at the scene.

He says he still can’t understand why no one checked the Bashline’s logbook, or even called the line for information, after Webster was killed.

“I think if you’re a good investigator you would investigate everything you could to do with the community,” Herman says. “Perhaps someone else was bashed in similar circumstances. I mean, come on.

“What are we waiting for? [Murder] number two?”

Det Rob Faoro, the lead investigator in the Webster case, admits that he only heard about the Bashline last week, when he finally got a copy of the logbook. Neither the VPD nor the gay community mentioned it to him until then, he says.

Herman says the logbook is just the tip of his frustration with the VPD. He also charges that Const Steve Rai, of the Davie St Community Policing Centre (CPC), never read the Bashline reports that Herman sent him this summer.

That’s a charge Rai is quick to refute. Rai says he not only read Herman’s reports, he filed them in the gay-bashings file he carries with him everywhere in his briefcase. “Jack Herman is confused,” Rai says.

The confusion may stem from a misunderstanding about when police can act. Police officers can only investigate an incident once they have received an official complaint from the victim directly, Rai explains. That means victims of gay-bashings who want to see some police follow-up, including an arrest, must call 911. By law, unofficial third party reports, including ones made through the Bashline, can be passed on to officers to read-but not to act upon.

That’s a distinction Herman seems to have missed, Rai says, insisting once again that he read every single one of Herman’s reports.

It’s an error that has had repercussions in the gay community, as well.

Kevin Manders, a young transgendered man, called the Bashline in September when he got attacked outside his workplace. He says he was reluctant to call 911 so Herman offered to take an unofficial report. But Herman also promised Manders that police would not only act on his report but warn the suspect to cease and desist. Not surprisingly, that never happened-and Manders is still mad and confused.

People have to call 911 and file an official police complaint if they want police action, Rai repeats, unable to hide his frustration with Herman.

Rai also refutes Herman’s claim that Herman called the Davie CPC 18 times without a single response to inquire about Velvet Steel’s bashing on Sep 17. It’s simply not true, Rai says. Herman only called about four times before Rai got back to him, the Davie St officer maintains.

Rai says he called Herman a second time after Herman told the crowd at Steel’s Nov 11 community meeting about his alleged 18 calls. At first Herman denied saying anything to that effect, Rai recalls. Then Herman admitted that he may have accidentally inflated the number because he was nervous.

Herman won’t talk about his 18-call claim anymore. Instead, he brings the conversation back to the gay community’s ongoing reluctance to call 911 and its distrust of the police.

“I can only say what the victims are telling me,” he repeats. “They don’t feel the police are responding.”