3 min

Police liaison has credibility problem

Queer-police relations committee threatens to become irrelevant

The guy who’s supposed to be looking out for queers in police matters — the head of the vehicle for gays to make their views known to the police — knew about a report exposing serious problems with their recruitment and he sat on it.

He knew because the police briefed him, he says.

The report, released in Nov 2007 and sent to Capital Xtra by request, details how rank and file police believed (wrongly) that police recruiters circumvent standards, lie, cheat, and steal information to get women, visible minorities and gays hired. It reveals that the outreach team and its recruits faced hostility from other members of the force based on the mistaken assumptions. In short, the well-meaning program had failed to generate “buy in” from regular cops and was ill.

Darryl Lim, community cochair of the police liaison to the queer community, kept news of the report from other members of the liaison committee and seemed surprised that I had a copy of it.

I met Joanne Law, another member of the liaison committee, in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning to deliver a Xerox of my copy to her. This was more than a month after it had been released. She should have received the report from Lim.

In the past, Lim has made no secret of his ambition to join the Ottawa police. He told Capital Xtra in Sep 2006 that he was “interested” in becoming a cop. Now Lim is declining to say definitively if or when he had last applied to the force. If he joins, he will likely use the outreach recruitment process — the subject of the report — to help steer him through the process.

And it is for that reason that Lim should have stepped away from this hot potato immediately. It is a critical report about recruitment after all, and he’s expressed interest in being a recruit. To prevent the perception that he’s got his wires crossed, Lim ought to have passed the report on to the liaison committee as a whole and recused himself.

Now, I’m sure Lim wouldn’t knowingly do anything unethical. But he shouldn’t have let himself make that call — he should have passed it on to Law and the rest of the committee to prevent the appearance of a conflict.

And this isn’t strike one, but rather the latest bungle by the police and the liaison committee. For example:

Community unrest over the Dixie Landers beating. The committee was slow to act and, in the end, defended the police rather than bringing our concerns to the police. Their mantra during the spring of 2007 was, “If the police say it’s okay, it must be.”

Park sex. A minor offense in the criminal code that usually nets a ticket, it exposes closeted men to shame that can lead to depression and suicide. In 2006, the police asked the liaison committee to help them deal with it. Lim failed to deliver the key message: your moralizing can ruin lives; stick to crimes with victims.

The liaison hasn’t declaimed police harassment of people using the AIDS Committee of Ottawa-issued safer inhalation kits. They have failed to take the police to task for sending john letters to owners of cars spotted in hooker strolls. They’ve failed to denounce the new street crime unit, which targets homeless people and sex workers. (In these ways, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa is proving itself more adept than the liaison committee at voicing our community’s concerns.)

Now is the time to replace Lim. Under him, the liaison has become, finally and completely, a volunteer arm of the police communications and public relations team.

In most other major cities, the queer reps to the police — through vehicles like this — aren’t afraid to speak up. We badly need a liaison like that, one that unabashedly reminds the police of their shortcomings, congratulates them when congratulations are due, and pushes them to become better.

Elections for the chair and vice chair of the liaison committee take place on Jan 21 at police headquarters (5:30pm, Pat Hayes Boardroom, 474 Elgin St)

If you have a stake in these issues — and we all do — please consider coming to the meeting with an eye on becoming a regular member or joining the committee’s leadership. Anyone can get involved.