For the first time in VicPD history, officers are celebrating Victoria Pride Week with rainbow-coloured ‘Victoria Police’ patches. Chief Del Manak posted to Twitter on Sunday saying the new patches will be worn to “to show our love and support for the LGBTQ2+ community.”
But while the Victoria Police Department is showing its pride this year, the relationship between police and pride organizations remains contentious across North America – with some organizations embracing police presence in local celebrations and others rejecting it entirely, citing historical violence and oppression the LGBTQ2+ community faced at the hands of law enforcement.
For the first time ever, you will see @vicpdcanada officers wearing Pride "Police" patches all week in celebration of #Pride week to show our love and support for the LGBTQ2+ community. #loveislove #inclusionmatters #relationships @VictoriaPride #yyj pic.twitter.com/AG6KG65inz— Del Manak (@ChiefManak) July 1, 2019
In Toronto and Vancouver, uniformed police officers are barred from participating in the yearly pride parade.
In Victoria, queer and allied police can participate – via the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (DAC) – but this year the Victoria Pride Society (VPS) is following in the larger cities’ footsteps: participating officers won’t be allowed to wear uniforms.
In January, Victoria’s Alt Pride organization asked VPS to completely bar police involvement in the upcoming, 26th annual pride parade.
Soon after, VPS undertook a lengthy consultation process to gauge public input on police presence. More than 500 people provided feedback – overwhelmingly responding with the message that moving forward requires a deeper look at inclusivity and an overarching awareness that work still needs to be done for the city’s most marginalized populations.
“As a result of that consultation, we had discussions with DAC and we basically agreed that police officers would not be in uniform,” said Scott Daly, VPS communications coordinator.
“Our number one goal is to make the pride parade and pride in general as accessible as possible, especially to the most marginalized members of our community,” Daly said. “This is the 50th year since Stonewall. Pride was founded as a protest and it was led by the most marginalized – sex workers, people of colour, trans people.
“It is very important for pride to be welcoming.”
Daly is clear the decision isn’t about excluding LGBTQ2+ officers from the celebration, but about making sure everyone feels welcome and safe.
“It’s a recognition that there’s still a relationships that needs to be built between local police departments and marginalized communities,” he said. “I think as a community, we’re looking for ways we can move forward. There still is work to do to help our marginalized communities, who are over-represented in the homeless population, twice as likely to be the victim of a violent assault…have higher rates of PTSD.
“I think police have a role to play in improving those.”
In response, the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (GVPDAC), the group that has worked with VPSand other community agencies since its inception in 2001 sent out a statement.
“As guests at the VPS event, we’re happy to participate in the manner that the organizers and community have told us they need us to. This year, we’re glad to not walk in uniform. It is our hope that doing so helps us all take another step towards fostering trust, improving communication, and building mutual understanding between our officers and staff and LGBTQ2S+ members of the Greater Victoria community we serve.”