OPINION: Police don’t get why their uniforms disturb Pride

by | Apr 21, 2017 | Opinion

By: Corey Martinez

It’s been a busy month. We have had Pepsi, United and Adidas make some pretty surprising PR blunders, but in this week’s episode of corporations being tone deaf I look at the Toronto’s LGBTQ Police Union and their recent strong armed attempt at getting Pride funding cut.

One doesn’t need to fall under the LGBTQ umbrella to see that the Toronto Police Union is over-reacting to Pride’s decision to “dis-invite” its officers from participating in future parades.

In a letter sent out to Mayor John Tory, the Toronto Police Associations’ LGBTQ internal support network urged the Mayor to pull hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from Pride- $260,000 to be exact.

“We the undersigned represent the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Interracial Support Network Executive Committee for the Toronto Police Service. It is our understanding that the City of Toronto will be considering continued funding in 2017 for Pride Toronto in the approximate amount of $260,000. At our request, we would like the Association to consider sharing with the mayor and city councilors that we, as city employees, would feel completely de-valued and unsupported by our employer should they fund this event at this time. How can we possibly feel appreciated by our employer while they sponsor an event that its own employees have been disinvited from participating in as full, equal, and active participants in their role as city employees. We can think of no examples in Canada where either a public or private employer has been a lead sponsor for an event their employees were asked to participate in. We wish Pride Toronto all the best success in their events in 2017, and we look forward to a time when a relationship exists again that cultivates a more respectful police-community partnership in Pride. However, when any city employee, regardless of their job function, is disinvited from an event hosted in the City of Toronto, we feel it is simply a conflict of interest, and unacceptable, that the City of Toronto remain a sponsor.”

There was an ominous undertone to it and gave me visions of a can of worms being popped open. So, let’s have a deeper look since we are dealing with masters of PR.

Okay, did you make it through? Sounds pretty good, right? If we can’t participate then nobody should be able to has been sound logic for centuries now. What the letter forgets to mention is that the $260,000 that the TPS wants removed is paid by taxpayers and goes toward police, security and transportation for the parade.

The issue isn’t that there wouldn’t be police presence at all — there would still be police at the parade, they would just be working securit, which is their job. Because Pride doesn’t want uniformed officers in their march, the police believe they don’t deserve any security at all.

Objections could include, “But the police got their float banned and can’t wear their uniforms in the parade, therefore they are excluded entirely! Think of the children!” I take a moment from swigging SJW tweets out of my chalice made of Fake News and ask: “Why the uniforms?”

I ask this question because the police wonder how they can possibly feel appreciated by their employer who sponsors an event that its own employees have been disinvited from participating in as “full, equal, and active participants in their role as city employees.”

If one really wanted to experience Pride, they would remove their uniform. This makes the most sense, as it re-affirms one’s humanity. When an officer dons a vest, and badge they become their brotherhood’s identity — a brotherhood that contributed to Operation Soap in 1981.

On Feb. 5, 1981, 286 men were arrested on charges of prostitution and indecency when uniformed and plainclothes officers raided four of Toronto’s largest gay bathhouses. This was the largest mass arrest in Canada since the October FLQ crisis in Quebec and is Canada’s version of Stonewall.

Many of the cases were dropped, but the police had outed a majority of the men, ruining their lives.

The next day on Feb. 6, some 3,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest the arrests and police harassment. These offences caused Toronto’s LGBTQ community to fight back and band together. And Pride has subsequently evolved from a somber reminder of the existence of “morality” police to a celebration of itself.

The importance of the uniform to the officer’s identity overcomes the importance of a given officer’s LGBTQ identity. When one wears a uniform, they break from their community and join a separate entity. An entity that doesn’t get harassed or arrested for public drinking or disorderly behavior and one that is still protected by the blue shield of police brotherhood.

To people who aren’t fighting the daily struggle, Pride is just another day to get drunk and rowdy — the police know this and are still able to do their job on the sideline. Why can’t people understand that it’s uncomfortable for people who some parts of society barely view as human to dance alongside people whose job sometimes seem to them to de-humanize.

The uniformed officers dance and revel around the half-naked crowd, their tactical sunglasses and hats shielding their identities. Their silver handcuffs glistening in the sun, jangling on their side. Reminding those around them that if they step out of line- they will be regulated and reminding their brothers in blue on the sideline — don’t harass me I’m on your side.

Reminding those celebrating that, “Hey, not all of us are like the other guys. You know, the ones not participating, but wearing this uniform. The uniform that finds your lifestyle indecent and helps silence your plight. I’m cool, though.”

Being a police officer or even being hired as a city employee changes a person’s status and privilege. They now have access to help and resources that average citizens don’t have. The fact that police would rather the festival participants be put in danger rather than simply remove their uniforms is alarming and worrisome.

This leads me to the part of this letter that worries me the most. The decision to ban the police float and uniformed officers was voted upon. This was a community decision and yet the police want to seize taxpayer (community) money from the parade.

This is a slippery slope if we ask what happens to other organizations which have the audacity to question the Toronto Police. A police force that has had at least 12 officers who were suspended with criminal offences make the 2017 Sunshine List of Ontario provincial employees earning $100,000 or more annually.

In April 2016, it was found that almost 80 per cent of the Toronto Police force are on the Sunshine List. Yet they try to preach equality and tolerance to those who are struggling to pay their bills or even find a bathroom to let them piss in.

Nobody is saying that LGBTQ police can’t participate in pride. It’s just that people don’t want the visual representation of abuse, corruption and intimidation that the TPS uniform conveys in their parade.

The Toronto Police LGBTQ internal support network’s response shows that police will always put officers before civilians. From the inability to take off their uniforms and hang out with the normies (fear of being vulnerable) to the tone deafness of how their fellow non-police LGBTQ members feel.

Before we go, let’s see how Halifax police chief reacted to their community’s concerns to really set our force’s privilege in stone.

“We recognize that as a result of what we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, specifically in Toronto, as well as what we’ve heard here locally, that there were some concerns about police presence in the parade.”

The Halifax police decided to bow out of Halifax’s 2017 Pride parade. That’s how it’s done. Maybe the police should look into making collaboration t-shirts for their officers.

“We are not your enemies” would be a good start.