Hamilton·Updated

Hamilton police appoint LGBTQ liaison officer to start 'rebuilding trust'

Hamilton police have appointed an openly LGBTQ officer to work with the local queer and trans communities as part of an effort to build trust.

Det.-Const. Rebecca Moran's duties will include encouraging queer and trans residents to report hate crimes

Det.-Const. Rebecca Moran says she'll work with the local LGBTQ community to "start to build bridges." (Hamilton Police Service)

Hamilton police have appointed an openly LGBTQ officer to work with the local queer and trans communities as part of an effort to build trust.

Det.-Const. Rebecca Moran will be "a conduit to address community concerns" and reach out to the LGBTQ community, "particularly around how individuals can report to police," Hamilton Police Service said in a media release. 

She "will also provide a safe space for individuals to come forward to address concerns or report crime," the release said.

Deputy Chief Ryan Diodati says the appointment is part of "taking the necessary steps in rebuilding trust."

"Hamilton Police are committed to strengthening our relationship with the 2S and LGBTQIA+ community," he said.

Moran said she hopes to "start to build bridges between the 2S and LGBTQIA+ community and our service.

"Knowing there is someone in the service they can reach out to that understands their lived experience, could help victims of crime feel more comfortable coming forward to police."

A group called Hamilton Queers Against Hate, meanwhile, says the new position "will not change the persistent negative experiences of Hamilton's two spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities have had when seeking assistance from Hamilton Police Service. These issues have existed over several decades and are still occurring."

Relations between police and the LGBTQ community made headlines after violence broke out at a June 15 Pride festival in Gage Park.

Protesters arrived at the park bearing religious signs and using a loudspeaker to say homosexuality is a sin. A group wearing pink masks used a large black cloth barricade to block them from view, and violence broke out. Several people were injured, and five people were arrested related to the fracas. One was on the side of the people with religious signs. 

Pride Hamilton and some festival attendees criticized police response that day, saying officers took too long to intervene. HPS received three service complaints, and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director received a citizen complaint.

The police board also voted to hire an independent reviewer, Scott Bergman from the Toronto firm Cooper, Sandler, Shime and Bergman LLP. The review will cost a maximum of $600,000, and a report is due no later than April 30. 

Bergman will look at various aspects of the response, including whether "existing practices, procedures, the leadership or culture" have contributed to distrust between police and the LGBTQ community. 

As for Moran's position, Hamilton Queers Against Hate say "liaison is another word for surveillance.

"The police do not need inside knowledge of our communities to protect two spirit and LGBTQIA+ individuals at public events, or to respond to individual complaints. We require timely responses to disturbances, altercations, and threats that do not criminalize or problematize the complainants."

Moran says she hopes to quell those concerns.

"I think the community has been quite clear that they don't feel comfortable at this point," she said. "I hope this position is going to assist with that. That's my ultimate goal."

Chief Eric Girt said Friday that the service is trying to set up a third meeting with members of the LGBTQ community since the Pride violence last year. There was a meeting scheduled for December, he said, but there were conflicting schedules.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca