Edmonton police outline actions to build trust with LGBTQ2S+ community

"We received some very valuable feedback from the community and from our own members on how we can do better," police Chief Dale McFee said in a statement.

EPS making changes to recruiting, training as part of reconciliation effort

Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee will talk about reconciliation efforts with the city's LGBTQ2S+ community at a news conference Friday. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service is changing its recruiting and training practices after wrapping up consultations with the city's LGBTQ2S+ community and EPS members.

Chief Dale McFee outlined details of the plan at a news conference Friday morning.

Consultations — through one-on-one interviews, small group interviews, focus groups, online surveys and social media — took place last year as part of the police service's LGBTQ2S+ reconciliation initiative.

"We received some very valuable feedback from the community and from our own members on how we can do better," McFee said in a statement in a news release Thursday.

"We won't always be perfect, we may make mistakes along the way, but this relationship is and will remain a priority for EPS."

In May 2019, McFee formally apologized to the city's LGBTQ2S+ community on behalf of the EPS as part of its reconciliation process.

At the time, he invited people to take part in shaping an engagement process aimed at changing the relationship between the police service and the community.

With the completion of the consultations, EPS said Thursday it has identified "actions that aim to immediately strengthen and improve inclusivity, understanding and communication and communication with its own members and that of the LGBTQ2S+ community."

The police service will develop a new LGBTQ2S+ recruit training module centred around "historic trauma, understanding marginalization and connecting with people's experiences," the news release said.

The training will be mandatory for sworn and civilian members and will include participation from members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, both inside EPS and outside.

Liaison co-ordinator for parades, protests

A new "police liaison co-ordinator" position has been created to work with the community — providing communication and collaboration around police response to parades, protests and large public gatherings.

"This is a major step to building trust," McFee said of the new position.

"This is a tool to help those with traumatic and negative experiences understand and prepare for situations that will involve the police, and how the police will present themselves, and their role."

In April 2019, the board of directors of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society voted to cancel the festival and parade. At the 2018 Pride parade, protesters had demanded police be banned from participating.

The EPS communications branch will see changes to inclusivity and bias awareness training. Current training provided at the time of hiring will be reviewed. So will the ongoing training members get about inclusive language, identity and bias.

EPS also said it will work to build "a more specific inclusivity strategy … in response to the feedback that the LGBTQ2S+ community wants to see more of themselves reflected in their police service."