Community policing and police-community partnerships are the cornerstones
of the crime prevention work of the nine-year-old Ottawa-Carleton Police
Liaison Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities,
a volunteer group.
The Committee has flourished under the leadership of successive police
services boards and the Chief of Police. As a result, the Ottawa-Carleton
Regional Police Service is now viewed as a leader -- across the country
and throughout the world -- in forward-looking policing in relation to
the LGBT communities, communities that have a history of negative and hostile
relations with the police.
The following article gives you an idea of what we've done.
For a glimpse at where we're going, please join us at our special Pride
Week event: Building Diversity for the Future, Monday July
10, 2000, 6-8 p.m., R.M.O.C. Activists Liz Hall and Matt Lundie, event coordinators,
hope this will be a stepping stone to a new Diversity Subcommittee of the
Liaison Committee. As well, watch for additional information on gayottawanow.com.
Special thanks to outgoing Police Chief Brian Ford who was honoured
June 22nd at a retirement party at the Congress Centre. Thanks, too,
to Judy Girard and other PTS members for the initial efforts that led to
the police doors' first opening.
A community-based partnership with a powerful service provider, the
police, is breaking down barriers of heterosexism and homophobia to begin
the process of developing appropriate access for lesbians and gay men to
the criminal justice system and related social services in Ottawa-Carleton.
Leadership, respect and commitment are crucial.
In the Advocacy and Activism section of "In the Pink 1999," the Ottawa-Carleton
community directory, distributed by a free monthly newspaper for lesbians
and gays, Capital Xtra!, there are eight entries. One is for
the Ottawa-Carleton Police Liaison Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
and Transgender Communities. Another is for the Hate Crime
Section of the Ottawa-Carleton Police.
These two entries in the non-mainstream publication are signs of significant
change as former adversaries become respected partners in pro-active efforts
to achieve equity for lesbians and/or gays in the Ottawa-Carleton criminal
The community-based partnership work is creative, cross-sectoral, multi-dimensional
and highly visible. It has taken the Chief of the Ottawa-Carleton
Police to Parliament Hill (in l996) to present a brief in favour of enhanced
sentencing for hate-motivated crimes against lesbians and gays, and paved
the way for the head of the Bias Crime Unit (now the Hate Crime Section)
to be on a panel at the first anti-homophobia workshops for Ottawa Board
of Education high school principals (June l996).
It has brought an Ottawa-Carleton Police cruiser into the Pride Parade
(since 1998) and brought the Rainbow Flag into the lobby of the main police
station; it hung there throughout Pride Week in 1998 and 1999.
The unprecedented queer community / police crime prevention work dates
back to 1989 when a man who was perceived to be gay was attacked by a number
of young men, robbed and thrown to his death off a bridge linking Ottawa
and Hull. Alarmed by the murder and other anti-gay violence, the
queer community organized a "Blow the Whistle" campaign and distributed
a safety pamphlet. The police, meanwhile, were passive and silent
- they did not recognize the hate motivation behind the violence.
Conflict over police inactivity led in l991 to the creation of the Liaison
Committee. Its crime prevention goal: to make Ottawa-Carleton
safe for individuals whose affectional orientation and gender identity
is not that of the majority (the Transgender Community joined the Liaison
Committee in 1995). Monthly meetings, attended by senior police personnnel
and strongly suppported by volunteers, revolve around incidents and issues
that concern the l/g/b/t communities; this is where the police are held
accountable. The Liaison Committee is accountable through community
group representation on the Committee, its policy of openness, extensive
mailing of detailed minutes and project reports, and outreach events.
Community Reports are a free service provided by gayottawanow.com to public- and voluntary-sector organizations. More info ....
In a rare move, in 1993 the Ottawa Police Services Board funded an outreach
project by two community-based workers (David Pepper and myself) to work
on an Action Plan of the Liaison Committee to reduce barriers to police
services. They subsequently accepted the recommendations in the 366-page
project report, Moving Toward a Distant Horizon, and assigned us
space at the police station to implement the recommendations.
An "out" lesbian, I work part-time on the project, called the Community
Access Project. I also staff the Liaison Committee. David,
who is now Director of Community Development for the police service (among
other duties), oversees the project.
The project has strong links with the Hate Crime Section, established
in l993, in response to demands from marginalized communities that are
the targets of hate-motivated violence. (Example: harassing
a lesbian couple at their home by damaging property, smearing fecal matter
on the tires of their car and dumping garbage on their lawn.)
Hate Crimes are Preventable
Hate crimes do not occur in a vacuum. As a result, they are one of
the easiest types of crime to prevent - through education and strong community
standards concerning prejudice. A hate-crime approach exposes the
root cause (motivation) of an incident and challenges the community at
large - including schools and the mainstream media - to work on solving
the underlying problem (prejudice).
Our community-based process is grounded in action-oriented, problem-solving
work that addressed needs identified by the community. The police-supported
work has the full backing of the Chief of Police who readily acknowledges
the over-policing of the past and sets a clear community standard
- violence against lesbians, gays bisexuals and members of the transgender
community is unacceptable.
Opening on a precarious, shoestring budget, the Community Access Project
has made considerable inroads into recommendations in Moving Toward
a Distant Horizon.
The work has three primary directions: a police service focus
(such as taking anonymous reports and doing outreach, including speaking
to youth groups); the visible and closeted lesbian, gay and bisexual
communities (including production of relevant materials and support
for volunteers); and broad-based, problem-solving partnerships.
We strive throughout to make visible and validate the racial, religious,
ethnic, disability and transgender diversity within the queer community.
Outcomes include an increase in reporting of hate-motivated incidents:
increasing visibility of lesbian and gay realities in police service policies,
procedures and training; police participation in many community events
and, above all, informed and sensitive responses to our communities by
an increasing number of officers. Overall, community/police partnership
work is shifting the service delivery momentum from ignorance and avoidance
to understanding and action.
We've also made some progress in the criminal justice system as a whole
in the area of same-sex partner abuse. Our work began with a March
1994 outreach meeting for lesbians that led David and myself to identify
lesbian partner abuse as the emerging issue in 10 months of community
development work. The meeting revealed deep distrust of the police,
incidents of inappropriate police response, and an almost complete lack
of services and preventative measures.
Soon afterwards, coincidentally, a regional group - the Women's Action
Centre Against Violence (Ottawa-Carleton) - invited the Liaison Committee
to sit on a steering committee for a federally funded, community effort
to co-ordinate the criminal justice system response to violence against
women in Ottawa-Carleton.
We readily accepted and poured ourselves into the undertaking.
Focus Groups and a two-day workshop in l995 spawned the Round Table, a
vehicle for key decision-makers in the criminal justice system and community
representatives to implement workshop recommendations outlined in Putting
the Pieces Together.
In a major breakthrough, Round Table members of key criminal justice
system agencies - the Crown, Police, Probation and Parole and Regional
Social Services - set up a multi-sector Partner Assault Support Team
(PAST) in 1997. The team's mandate: "to work toward ending
partner abuse by providing coordinated services including effective criminal
prosecutions, for victims of violence by same-or opposite-sex partners."
The inclusive "partner assault" title reflects the reality that primary
relationships can include two men or two women, as well as a woman and
a man. Within three-and-a-half years we went from identifying same-sex
partner abuse as a serious problem that was invisible from an organizational
perspective to where the issue is an integral part of an unprecedented
(in our area) system-wide, coordinated effort to provide an effective and
accountable justice system response to partner assault.
Substantive, Not Piecemeal, Change
For us this is substantive, potentially whole-system change, not piecemeal
change, providing there is sufficient commitment, coordination and funding.
Throughout, same-sex partner abuse is presented within the context of
heterosexism and societal homophobia that are the root cause of hate-motivated
crime and unsafe school environments for young lesbians and gays and bisexuals.
The systemic changes we are achieving apply to both lesbians and gays -
as an example, the addition of lesbians and gays in 1998 to the new province-wide
protocol of Probation and Parole.
Lesbian partner abuse was the issue that qualified us for involvement
with the initial co-ordination project, but the successful outcomes benefit
gay men as well. Some needs may be particular to each group, but
the overriding service need is universal - access that is appropriate because
it has addressed and resolved, in partnership with communities, the central
and common barriers of heterosexism and homophobia. Ultimately, we
hope, the work will also benefit the transgender community.
As with hate crimes, there is now an increase in service calls from
victims of same-sex partner abuse. The increase is significant and
doubtless reflects that others are working on this issue as well.
However, under-reporting (estimated at 90 percent for hate-motivated crimes)
is still very serious.
Within a period of a few months in 1997, for instance, the Liaison Committee
received information about three lesbian students who had to change schools
because of the level of harassment and violence. The victims had
Shortage of Services
In terms of same-sex partner abuse, one concern is the absence or shortage
of appropriate services for victims and perpetrators of same-sex partner
abuse. Existing Ottawa-Carleton treatment programs for perpetrators,
for instance, are for heterosexual males only.
At the request of the Round Table , the Liaison Committee set up the
Same-Sex Partner Abuse (SSPA) Subcommittee in October 1997 to develop an
action plan / funding proposal to develop treatment program services relevant
for same-sex clients. The SSPA Action Plan approved by the Round
Table in March 1999 outlines necessary steps to achieve treatment programs
plus urgently needed, comprehensive standards, policies and a range of
services for victims and perpetrators of same-sex partner abuse.
We can not simply replicate existing services designed for heterosexuals;
services must be specific to the needs of a highly marginalized and often
deeply closeted segment of the population. The community development
process will rely on community input to such questions as: Is the
existing criminal justice system the appropriate place for victims and
perpetrators of same-sex partner abuse, given the risks of being outed
in the process?
What alternative approaches can be developed through community-based
work? What conflict resolution tools are needed to enhance the likelihood
of constructive, collaborative outcomes? Heterosexism perpetuates
silence. How can we work in partnership with all service providers
to address this root cause of fear? (A key element for productive
partnership work identified by lesbian focus groups is the need to sing
from the same song sheet - the need for agreement on a mutually accepted,
clear standard such as the Barrier Elimination Plan (BEP) that outlines
steps agencies need to take to create welcoming environments.)
We are working at present on a project with Pink Triangle Services --
the queer community's volunteer-run service organization -- and Catholic
Family Services to address the needs of gay victims of partner abuse.
Genuine Progress Essential
We've come a long way since the March 1994 workshop. The effects
are far-reaching when an institution as powerful as the police legitimizes
and affirms a segment of society that is usually rendered invisible.
But we have a long way to go. Fear, mistrust and cynicism predominate
in minority communities. To promote trust and accountability,
we aways need to be able to point to genuine progress, genuine change.
To understand the magnitude of the resistancce the work can trigger,
context is vital. While everyone has an affectional orientation,
the affectional orientation of the majority - straight women and men -
is seen as part of the whole person. Many view lesbians and gays,
however, solely through the lens of sex -- deviant sex. Humanity,
skills, spiritual qualities, the essence of us as individuals is irrationally
As a result, we have been criminalized, medicalized, villanized, ridiculed,
isolated and dehumanized. Systemic denial of our existence is widespread.
Invisibility of the words lesbian, gay and bizexual is not neutral -
it's negative. It stands for silencing, avoidance and ignorance.
It can also stand for deep, deep hostility. In many areas, there
is hostility to the mere mention or appearance of the words "lesbian,"
"gay" or "bisexual."
A key ingredient of the success of the police partnership is the up-front
willingness of the police service to acknowledge its poor responses to
the lesbian and gay communities in the past and to work openly, in partnership,
on community-identified concerns. The lack of defensiveness, the
willingness to address problems literally amazes many community members,
convinces them that police concern is genuine and brings them in increasing
numbers to the Liaison Committee and its subcommittees.
In terms of power-sharing, the shared decision-making puts us in the
highest collaborative form of partnership as defined by the authors of
"Partnership, Devolution and Power-Sharing: Issues and Reflections
for Management," in Optimum, the Journal of Public Sector Management
(1). The police, in many ways the ultimate symbol of power and control
in our society, are pioneers in forging this authentic, respect-based partnership.
In addition to predictable opposition, the bottom-up, instead of top-down,
problem-solving, service delivery approach of the Ottawa-Carleton police
also engenders backlash from those who have an hierarchical approach to
and investment in power and the status quo.
With strong support from the Chief of Police and other senior officers
we have progressed in spite of a range of obstacles, including: a
complaint by a police officer because he might have been in a photo I took
of a Crime Prevention Week display that included the poster "Being Lesbian,
Gay or Bisexual is not a crime, Bashing is" (1994); complaints to a senior
officer from a school board official who said I was aggressive (I had asked
questions about process in the open session of an all-day, community workshop
on youth and violence); and backlash by an agency to activists' discussion
about training standards in an interview in a community newspaper.
But leadership does not automatically translate into enlightened, informed,
sensitive service by all officers. Pending comprehensive training,
we refer calls from the l/g/b/t communities to personnel we have come to
There is certainly an element of polarization within the police service,
but the very fact that the Ottawa-Carleton Police Chorus and the Gay Men's
Chorus gave a joint Pride concert in June 1998 speaks volumes. (It
was a huge success).
A concern is the failure of other jurisdictions to work on these issues.
Interviews with middle-management officers and civilians attending the
Community Policing Management Program '98 near Orangeville revealed a serious
lack of training, problem-solving strategies and community contacts to
assess the victimization and risks facing lesbians and gays. I was
impressed by officers' readiness to acknowledge shortcomings in their police
services and their desire to learn about pro-active steps they can initiate.
I was not impressed by the formal evaluation of the program which failed
to relay my detailed written concerns about the invisibility of sexual
minority and gender identity issues.
Built-in Evaluation Component
While we lack the money to do a formal evaluation of our work, there is
a built-in evaluation component through our community-based process of
accountability. As well, there is the very tangible evidence of increased
reporting of incidents; increased group and individual membership in the
Liaison Committee; increased coverage and debate in the community newspaper
(Capital Xtra!); community endorsements (locally, countrywide and
internationally), and institutional endorsements, including from the policing
community and Michelle Falardeau-Ramsay, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian
Human Rights Commission (2).
I value highly events that happen only because work with the police
opens closed doors. An example: the Sexual Minority Youth Workshop
at the national Canada's Children - Canada's Future Conference, held in
Ottawa in November 1996.
The most powerful evaluations come from members of the queer and transgender
communities. For instance, a lesbian who'd been bashed in a bar in
a central Ontario city described, at a Liaison Committee meeting, how she
was "very surprised to sit in a room with police officers and talk in a
format everyone understood. I felt heard for the first time.
It was wonderful (3)."
Regional Councillor Diane Holmes often attends Liaison Committee meetings.
Not long ago she asked me how the Committee was doing. I explained
that we were attracting new members, expanding our efforts. It's
slow, I said, but we're getting there. "That's democracy," she smiled.
And it is. It is all about democracy, every inclusion-demanding,
choir-celebrating, minutes-laden step - and occasional leap - of the way.
1. Rodal, "Partnership, Devolution and Power-Sharing: Issues
and Reflections for Management," in Optimum: The Journal of Public
Sector Management, vol. 24-3, p. 29.
2. Falardeau-Ramsey, "Sexual Orientation and the Pursuit of Equality,"
unpublished manuscript, from Queering the Nation Conference, June, 1992,
3. Pepper, D., Holland, C. "Moving Toward a Distant Horizon:
The Public Summary of the Final Report of the Action Plan Project Funded
by the Ottawa Police Services Board" unpublished manuscript, June, 1994,
Ottawa, p. 3.
Falardeau-Ramsey, "Sexual Orientation and the Pursuit of Equality," unpublished
manuscript, from Queering the Nation Conference, June, 1992, Toronto.
Lesbian Focus Groups, Barrier Elimination Plan; Diversity:
The Lesbian Community; A working Document for Service Deliverers Seeking
to Address Workplace Issues, Client Concerns, unpublished manuscript,
Pepper, D., Holland, C. "Moving Toward a Distant Horizon:
The Public Summary of the Final Report of the Action Plan Project Funded
by the Ottawa Police Services Board" unpublished manuscript, June, 1994,
Ottawa, p. 3.
Roday, Alti and Nick Mulder, "Partnership, Devolution and Power-Sharing:
Issues and Reflections for Management," in Optimum: The Journal
of Public Sector Management, Winter, 1993, vol. 24-3.
The Women's Action Centre Against Violence (Ottawa-Carleton), "Putting
the Pieces Together: Results of a Two-Day Workshop to Improve the
Response of the Criminal Justice System to Women Who Have Experienced Violence
in Ottawa-Carleton," unpublished manuscript, Ottawa, March 1995.
In 2000, some people interpret queer to include the transgender community.
Carroll Holland studied history at Queen's University in Kingston, worked
for many years as a reporter and editor at the Ottawa Journal and
is now a community development worker / activist in Ottawa-Carleton.