A dif­fer­ence of opin­ion

Should po­lice of­fi­cers walk in uni­form at Pride pa­rades?

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN

Mem­bers of the Cape Breton Re­gional Po­lice are in­vited to walk in the 2017 Pride Pa­rade on Saturday in uni­form or not, but the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing cops in uni­form is still there.

Here are two op­pos­ing views on the is­sue from mem­bers Cape Breton’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

Matt Camp­bell, a teacher and for­mer Cape Breton Pride com­mit­tee mem­ber, is for po­lice of­fi­cers walk­ing in the pa­rade in uni­form.

“I just don’t think that ex­clu­sion is the right thing for our com­mu­nity,” he ex­plained.

“If we want to be em­braced, how do we re­flect that by ex­clud­ing others, when there are some from our own com­mu­nity, wear­ing those same uni­forms?

“The chief of po­lice in Cor­ner Brook is a gay male. And he’s mar­ried. You’re telling him he can’t come and be proud.”

Point­ing out that un­til the late 1970s it was con­sid­ered il­le­gal to be ho­mo­sex­ual in Canada, Camp­bell stressed things have changed, in­clud­ing the LGBTQ com­mu­nity’s re­la­tion­ship with law en­force­ment.

“As that re­la­tion­ship has evolved, we’re al­most step­ping back­wards by say­ing you don’t be­long here in uni­form,” he said.

“Ev­ery time we have a pa­rade, there are uni­formed po­lice there, so they will be present re­gard­less. What are we ac­com­plish­ing by alien­at­ing the peo­ple whose job it is to serve and pro­tect?” he added.

Camp­bell thinks hav­ing of­fi­cers in uni­form shows peo­ple in the LGBTQ com­mu­nity which law en­force­ment of­fi­cials are al­lies and safe peo­ple to go to with con­cerns.

“May­ors who do walk in the pa­rade, make a state­ment, with­out say­ing any­thing. It is mean­ing­ful … that kind of ex­am­ple needs to be set and that’s what hav­ing of­fi­cers in uni­form walk in those pa­rades does; it sets the ex­am­ple that there are safe law en­force­ment,” he ex­plained.

While Camp­bell rec­og­nizes that some vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties and trans­gen­der peo­ple may have had bad ex­pe­ri­ences with po­lice, he stressed po­lice who are dis­crim­i­na­tory is a small per­cent­age of the po­lice force.

“I think it is a mis­take to tie all po­lice of­fi­cers to the bad ap­ples be­cause there are bad ap­ples in our com­mu­nity too,” he said.

Kate Krug, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in an­thro­pol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy at Cape Breton Univer­sity and for­mer Cape Breton Pride com­mit­tee mem­ber-at-large, be­lieves po­lice of­fi­cers in uni­form should be banned from walk­ing in the pa­rade.

This was mo­ti­vated by the protest Black Lives Mat­ter (BLM) did at Toronto Pride in 2016. It moved her to tears.

“I thought, ‘wow, that is the best form of ac­tivism.’ They didn’t get loud. They got quiet. They sat down and said we need you to hear us. That for me was when it be­came im­por­tant to say to my com­mu­nity here we need to tell them that we hear them.”

For Krug, ban­ning po­lice in uni­forms is way to stand in sol­i­dar­ity with BLM and other mi­nori­ties who feel threat­ened by the uni­form.

“When racial­ized queers and Indige­nous folks tell me that they don’t feel safe when th­ese so­cial in­sti­tu­tions are rep­re­sented and armed po­lice are present … then my re­sponse is to say ‘well we will just min­i­mize the pres­ence of the armed po­lice,’” she said, pas­sion­ately.

“I’m not say­ing that in­di­vid­ual po­lice of­fi­cers are evil in­car­nate … If they want to par­tic­i­pate, I am all for them par­tic­i­pat­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as mem­bers of the po­lice. I am not sug­gest­ing we should ban them, just the uni­form.”

To her, if one part of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity doesn’t feel com­fort­able be­ing at the pa­rade be­cause of uni­formed of­fi­cers, then the com­mu­nity isn’t be­ing prop­erly rep­re­sented.

“We can’t be a queer com­mu­nity

if we can’t all be there,” she said.

In the 1980s, Krug walked in many Pride pa­rades in Toronto, dur­ing a time when the Pride or­ga­niz­ers couldn’t get pa­rade per­mits. They would have to walk, al­most de­fi­antly, on the side­walk be­cause po­lice couldn’t stop them from walk­ing there.

“While I un­der­stand and rec­og­nize that Pride has be­come more cel­e­bra­tory and more car­ni­val-es­que in the 21st Cen­tury than it was in the 20th Cen­tury, the march it­self has its roots as a deeply po­lit­i­cal act,” Krug said.

“If we for­get where we came from there is a very grave dan­ger that we can go back there,” she stressed.

Krug has started think­ing maybe a good so­lu­tion to the de­bate is to keep the uni­form but ban the sidearm and other pro­jec­tile weapons.

Over­all, she thinks the whole de­bate helps keep the dis­cus­sion about po­lice and marginal­ized mi­nori­ties open.

“We need to talk about the ways we still need to do some­thing dif­fer­ently about the kinds of train­ing and ev­ery­day prac­tices for po­lice and peo­ple who are in­ter­ven­ing be­cause there needs to be some­thing more about how to de-es­ca­late rather than re­spond with the use of weapons,” Krug ex­plained.

“... I am all for them par­tic­i­pat­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as mem­bers of the po­lice. I am not sug­gest­ing we should ban them, just the uni­form.”

Kate Krug, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in an­thro­pol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy at Cape Breton Univer­sity

NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN/ CAPE BRETON POST

Matt Camp­bell, a teacher and for­mer Cape Breton Pride com­mit­tee mem­ber, sup­ports po­lice of­fi­cers walk­ing in the an­nual pa­rade in uni­form.

Krug

SUB­MIT­TED IM­AGE

There is a new route for the Pride Pa­rade, which starts this year on Ge­orge St. and fin­ishes at Open Hearth Park.

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