Police liaison believer Carroll Holland says “poor Toronto is about 10 years behind” the Ottawa-Carleton region in relations between the cops and the gay community. Then she corrects herself and says it could be as much as 20 years.
The Ottawa-Carleton Police Liaison Committee For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgendered Communities is nine years old. “It came about,” says long-time member Holland, “because the community was concerned and the police were not getting it.”
The catalytic event was the August 1989 murder of Alain Brosseau, a man thrown over a bridge to his death.
And cops “were not following up on hate crimes,” says David
Pepper, the gay director of community development for the Ottawa-Carleton police.
Things have changed.
“The chief [the outgoing Brian Ford] has publicly denounced hate crimes,” Pepper says. “And the liaison committee is directly accountable to him.”
Membership is open to the community Û however, there are designated seats for homo organizations.
Representatives from the Ottawa-Carleton police include senior executives from the chief’s office, inspectors, superintendents and officers from the partner-abuse and hate-crimes units.
“We just grow and grow,” says Holland. Membership has moved beyond any strict confines to encompass the Hull police, security services from the University Of Ottawa and Carleton University, the Crown attorney’s office and the Ottawa-Carleton Police Association.
Crime reporting, according to Holland, is what drives the liaison
At the beginning of each monthly meeting, officers list new crimes and follow up on ones previously reported. Incidents tend to fall under the hate-crime and partner-abuse categories.
There is also reporting from the community.
Also, the police have set up a line, dedicated to the police liaison
committee, for community outreach. Holland, who has a part-time job staffing the phone, says it gives individuals another avenue of access to the committee and provides a good profile.
“I can’t keep up,” Holland says.
What about critics who might feel that working with the police is antithetical to being queer?
“Those who have those difficulties have their mindsets in the ’80s,”
says Holland. “They’re operating from a place where they can’t see the work that is going on. I think they are limited in their numbers.”
“There are changes occurring right in the system,” Holland says.
She points to the creation of the bias-crimes unit Û now called the hate-crimes unit Û as a direct result of the liaison committee’s work. The partner-abuse unit, previously called the spousal-abuse unit, is another product of the committee, Holland says.
Particularly close to Holland’s heart is a school project. Holland and some officers went to Woodroofe High School in the Ottawa area
to give anti-hate-crime seminars. Later that same day, a play, The
Other Side Of The Closet, was presented to 800 students.
In September, the committee and the hate-crimes unit held
training seminars at Ottawa-Carleton police headquarters for school resource officers. “This gives us an entrÈe. This is the first time they’ve received this kind of training,” Holland says.
Holland says this is what community-based policing is about.
“I have an awareness of something quite new. The police have given us the power. They know they need this.”