Kudos to Catherine Galliford, the RCMP officer who has taken it upon herself to voice what she has seen and experienced as the head of the Missing Women’s Task Force in Vancouver.
The Province recently posted a story about Galliford, who is slated to testify in January at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Galliford gave a statement to the RCMP totalling 115 pages, which included her claim that the RCMP had enough evidence to ask for a search warrant to search Robert Pickton’s farm in 1999. Pickton’s farm was not raided until 2002. She herself was subjected to ridicule and insults. According to The Province:
The officers, Galliford alleged, wanted to tell her about “their fantasy.”
“They wanted to see Willie Pickton escape from prison, track me down and strip me naked, string me up on a meat hook and gut me like a pig,” said Galliford, who also recounted the episode in her formal statement to RCMP.
The worst part about all of this is that I’m not really surprised by any of the information that I’m reading. There are many issues at stake with this investigation, including violence against women, as well as the treatment of First Nations women. But this did get me thinking about images and ideas around sex workers, specifically within law enforcement and the media. Note: this is not to ignore the other issues or to disavow that these three separate issues are not often connected. I also do not wish to make sweeping generalizations that all the women who were murdered by Pickton were sex workers, but it is known that many of them were.
Sex workers are often portrayed and viewed by police officials – as well as the mainstream media – as victims or criminals or both. This is problematic at best. One of the main issues in discussions about the sex trade is a lack of knowledge – a bias I admit to and am working to diminish by informing myself about issues related to sex work.
It is a bias that I would argue many journalists are subject to, without even being conscious of it, let alone understanding it. The fact that the word “hooker” is still used by many mainstream media outlets is another example of the lack of knowledge and respect that many people in the sex trade deal with.
To expect that a law enforcement agency would make the effort to understand its own biases is laughable to some and unfortunate to all who are subject to it. If we are to talk of victimization, then I would argue that Galliford was a victim of this bias, as were the women – both counted and uncounted – who fell to Pickton.
A final thought: the irony is not lost on me that the day The Province posted this story, Xtra posted the story of Gerald Hannon, who was a sex worker, announcing his “retirement” from the industry in what is a positive description about sex work, with an interview conducted by someone in the trade.