Hamilton

Investigation into police conduct at Pride will involve 100s of people, lawyer says

The lawyer investigating police conduct at a Hamilton Pride festival in June says he will potentially talk to hundreds of officers and LGBTQ people for a report due next year.
Toronto lawyer Scott Bergman is doing the independent investigation of Hamilton Police Service. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The lawyer investigating police conduct at a Hamilton Pride festival in June says he will potentially talk to hundreds of officers and LGBTQ people for a report due next year.

Scott Bergman says "the sky is the limit" for who he'll interview as part of his public report. 

"We're going to be meeting with members of the community," he said. "We're also going to be interviewing various police officers."

"There are a number of organizations we've been in touch with. Those organizations are likely going to be bringing people in their communities together. My sense is we're going to be touching hundreds of people.

"[As for] how many people want to sit down and meet with us for interviews, the sky is the limit. We're not closing our doors to anyone."

The Toronto firm Cooper, Sandler, Shime and Bergman is involved has been involved with about 22 systemic reviews, Bergman said. The Hamilton Police Services board hired the firm this fall to look at police conduct during the June 15 celebration in Gage Park, which will cost a maximum of $600,000.

At that event, protesters with religious signs gathered and shouted homophobic phrases through a loudspeaker. A group of anarchists wore pink masks and used a portable black barrier to shield the protesters from view.

Violence broke out, and several people were injured. Pride Hamilton organizers criticized police that day for being too slow to act to break up the fighting.

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. He'll report back to the board and public no later than April 30, 2020.

Mixed views on including 'anarchists'

The Hamilton Police Services board received Bergman's terms of reference Thursday. Bergman said he met with numerous LGBTQ residents to develop them.

There were mixed views about including the word "anarchists" to describe counter-protesters, he noted. 

Will Rowe, a transgender rights activist, said it implies only anarchists resisted the religious protesters. "There were people there who were not part of the anarchist movement," he explained.

Bergman said he included the word because many LGBTQ residents explicitly wanted it there. "[It reflects] a broad consensus that we received from many we met with."

Rowe said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the terms of reference.

"We're willing to listen and see what happens."

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