It’s been a big turnaround for the Toronto police service.
Ten years ago, Toronto police, under chief Julian Fantino, saw the gay and lesbian community as something of an enemy, a hostile force. Clubs feared police raids, and gays and lesbians often felt police officers were not there to serve and protect them.
How that has changed. This week it was announced that Toronto would host World Pride week in 2014. The event will include a parade of nations and a human rights conference.
The bid was led by Toronto Pride Week organizers. Supporters included Tourism Toronto, the TD Bank, which sponsors the annual parade, and — this is the key sponsor — the Toronto Police Service.
Gays and lesbians from other cities, particularly in the U.S., must have been surprised to find the Toronto police actually encouraging Pride activities. It is so different from other police forces. Our force has relaxed about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
It’s a sign of the positive change Chief Bill Blair has been able to bring to the police force.
It doesn’t mean there won’t be occasional miscues by police officers in dealing with the community — individual officers exhibit the same kinds of prejudice as the rest of us — but it does mean that as an organization, the force will not reward such errant behaviour — indeed, discriminatory behaviour will probably be subject to reprimand.
Good on the Toronto police force for making the turnaround. It makes for a better city. One wonders if the same kind of turnaround could happen with the black community. Relations between the police and the black community are strained, particularly in relation to youth.
The gay and lesbian community is economically well off, while parts of the black community are mired in poverty and the sometimes worrying activities that spring from it. Can the police under Blair find a way to reach out to that community and make the necessary turnaround here, too?