'Out On Patrol' launches to help LGBTQ law enforcement officers and allies
Members of the new non-profit can access mental and emotional peer support
Law enforcement officers who identify as LGBTQ and their allies now have access to a new B.C. peer-support organization created just for them.
Out On Patrol, which launches May 26, has been a couple of years in the making. Its purpose is to provide emotional and mental health support for its members, as well as engage with the community through school education programs, funding for other LGBTQ organizations, and youth scholarships.
Members must be actively working as a sworn peace officer or have retired with a minimum of 10 years of service. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, peace officers can include members of the RCMP, municipal and transit police forces, the Canada Border Services Agency, Indigenous policing organizations and Correctional Services Canada.
"We have come a long way from where we were just a few years ago," said Const. Julien Ponsioen, a member of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police who also sits on the board of Out On Patrol.
Congratulations to <a href="https://twitter.com/OutOnPatrol?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@OutonPatrol</a> for officially launching today! Proud of all of the members who committed to creating this much needed, inclusive <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/community?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#community</a> space. <a href="https://t.co/gXZkuKO5La">https://t.co/gXZkuKO5La</a>—@SimiHeer
Ponsioen, who openly identified as LGBTQ when he was hired in 2014, said he has never experienced a problem at work because of it but that the situation would likely have been different in past decades when queer officers were often discriminated against.
He said a challenge some LGBTQ officers face now is distrust from the queer community because of their work.
"We know there are tensions there and if we can do anything to rebuild that relationship we are going to be out there and we are going to help with that," said Ponsioen Tuesday on The Early Edition.
Ponsioen said he was inspired to set up something like Out On Patrol in B.C. after learning about a similar Ontario initiative, Serving With Pride, while at a conference in Toronto a few years ago.
Out on patrol would like to thank all of the departments, detachments and agencies that have supported us during the process of getting this idea off the ground. <br>We look forward to working with everyone as we move forward. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LGBTQ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LGBTQ</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Police?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Police</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OutonPatrol?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OutonPatrol</a> <a href="https://t.co/IULokZciDu">pic.twitter.com/IULokZciDu</a>—@OutOnPatrol
When he started putting the feelers out to do create a group, Ponsioen learned there was already interest and chatter happening among the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP. He said it took about a year after all the parties joined forces to get Out On Patrol, well, out on patrol.
"Right now, more than ever, it's probably the right time to launch," he said, referring to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
He said having a support group where you can talk to people within your own community is that much more important during stressful times like these.
To learn more about how to access support from Out On Patrol, or to apply for membership, visit OutOnPatrol.ca.
To hear Const. Julien Ponsioen speak more about Out On Patrol on The Early Edition, tap here.
With files from The Early Edition