Toronto Police meet to rebuild rapport with transgender community
Archive 2014 Nov 23, 2014 Aeryn Pfaff
Representatives from the Toronto Police’s LGBT Community Consultation Committee met with leaders and members of the city’s transgender communities at the 519 Community Centre on Tuesday to try to mend their historically troubled relationship.
Const. and LGBT Liaison Danielle Bottineau, Insp. Barbara Mclean and CCC co-chair Hugh Ferguson talked about reporting crimes and answered questions from the audience.
On the difficulties between police officers and the trans community, Insp. Mclean said the force hires “from the human race. We have all the strengths of the human race and we have all the challenges of the human race.”
The uniformed officers spoke about the force’s training and education programs for trans issues.
Const. Bottineau said the LGBTQ Police Consultation Committee “works to problem solve and identify issues that are needed to address crime and disorder and quality of life.”
Lawyer Paul Saguil made note of past trends in court cases.
“There has been a trend in previous cases in the defence of assault or other violent crimes in which they’ve raised a so-called panic defence where they say ‘I assaulted person x because I thought they were hitting on me and I’m not comfortable with their sexual orientation or gender identity’ . . . and defence in the criminal code has been narrowed to say that your defence to provocation only applies if a reasonable person would have acted in the same way and so the so called panic defence probably wouldn’t fly as much anymore,” Saquil told the audience.
Others at Tuesday’s meeting described their personal experience.
Community organizer Susan Gapka spoke about a ‘disobeying an officer’ charge against her that was later dropped. She explained how the officer told her to stand away from him as he shouted questions like “What sex are you?”, across the sidewalk.
Kira Andry, who is non-gender binary, meaning the person does not identify as male or female, spoke about reporting a sexual assault to officers who did not know how to use the proper pronouns to describe them.
Despite wearing a button detailing how they don’t want to be called ‘he’ or ‘she’, they still misgendered them in the report, which they say was “additionally humiliating on top of the sexual assault.’
Rachel Lauren Clark, who works at the 519, said after the police officers described protocol in sexual assault case that she noticed inconsistencies with her own experience and questioned whether or not the officers who dealt with her situation took her safety or trauma seriously.
Clark says police took her report of the incident but did not offer her any help and did not ask her if she needed to be taken to the hospital, as protocol states.
Clark also said they didn’t communicate their badge numbers and she didn’t know how to contact them for follow-up. When the police representatives began to explain how to identify officers badge numbers for follow-up she said that “at this time I had just been sexually assaulted at gunpoint. I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.”
The conversation also covered the dignity of transgender people accused of crimes, such as where they are confined, and whether prosthetic body parts, hair, and hormone patches are treated as contraband. No conclusive answer was provided, but the police said the community feedback would influence future training and policies.
The police offered help where they could and communicated their current procedures and future plans.
Const. Bottineau said she always tells her officers that it’s not up to them how somebody identifies.
Insp. McLean said the police “have training but people need reminders. The series of meetings is called Let’s Talk and will continue in the future.