2 min

Police want queer officers

But they don't know how to ask

Toronto Police Service held a graduation ceremony last week for 141 new recruits but despite increased targeted recruiting of queers they have no idea how many are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans — they don’t ask.

However, unofficial self-reporting to the recruitment officer indicates that at least five queers are in the class of 162 recruits that started training in April.

Even though increased recruitment efforts have seen booths at Pride and other community events, the force still struggles with how to deal with sexual orientation.

“It’s such a grey area. We recognize the need to deal within the community but sexual orientation doesn’t fall under our diverse minority needs,” says Const Glenna Delcogliano of the employment unit. The diverse communities mandate currently includes racial minorities, women, aboriginals, people with diverse language skills and residents of the City Of Toronto (ironically, current officers tend to live outside the city).

“We still recognize and deal with [sexual orientation] as if you were a visible minority,” says Delcogliano.

In Ottawa, there is an effort underway to change the methods of recruitment and marketing to potential police officers. Ottawa Police Service Staff Sgt Syd Gravel says executives decided they needed to change the force first, in order to make it more attractive to diverse communities.

Gravel cites research from the US which found organizations where they had excellent recruiting strategies “but within three or four years they had lost them all. They had done a great job of recruiting people into an environment that didn’t accept the change, and so people left.”

After studies and focus groups, the team came up with 17 core recommendations including a requirement that anyone sitting on a hiring/promotion board must go through sensitivity training. The force also developed a more informal, mediated public complaints process.

While Ottawa still hasn’t launched its marketing strategy Gravel says that the internal changes and initial outreach have already changed the composition of the cadet classes.

“At the time we started [this process] classes weren’t diverse. They were 80 to 90 percent white males and 10 percent whatever else.” Now white males make up between 45 and 65 percent of recruit classes. A 2005 workforce census found that 3.8 percent of the service, officers and civilian, identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited or questioning.

Back in Toronto, they’re depending on improved training to get the ball rolling. Delcogliano says that there is some diversity training at the Ontario Police College. As a result of the women’s bathhouse human rights settlement, all officers are required to receive additional sexual diversity training.

“I think education is our biggest hurdle,” says Delcogliano.

Starting this fall, recruitment of queer people will fall to Tracey Latimer, an out lesbian with the force. Latimer guesses that there are least 50 lesbians within the service — not so many gay men. She says it’s getting easier to be out.

“If someone chooses to come forward and if they are mistreated, everyone has to act professionally and there are huge consequences.”

There is no still support program for queer officers.