Today we learned that Pride Toronto, the organization behind Toronto’s annual pride celebration, voted to exclude participation from law enforcement in the parade and pride celebrations. They actually took conscious action to exclude law enforcement including officers who happen to be members of the LGBT community.
When Toronto hosted the World Pride celebration in 2014, I traveled to Toronto and was hosted by the police department as part of an international LGBT law enforcement conference they produced in conjunction with the pride celebration. The Chief of Police hosted an event for LGBT community leaders in the police department in support of the pride celebration and the community (something he has done for years). I found the police department’s engagement to be remarkable and an excellent example of what should be in every city. The police department had a float in the parade and participated fully in a wide range of pride events, all the while providing protection for everyone who attended that weekend. It was community policing at its finest.
When organizations like Pride Toronto take actions like they did today, they compromise what I believe citizens are craving – a trusting relationship with police. I suspect those who voted today would be the first to criticize police for not being involved or connected enough to the community, yet they took action to exclude the same officers who are working hard to be engaged.
Last year a similar action was taken by the LGBT community center in San Diego on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. They told a transgender officer from the San Diego Police Department that she couldn’t participate in uniform. I say, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t complain about a lack of engagement and trust and then do what Pride Toronto just did.
Let’s remember how pride celebrations we plan and enjoy today came about. They started in New York with a riot between police and LGBT people. The relationship with police couldn’t have been worse and more violent. But over the years, law enforcement and members of the LGBT community worked hard to build relationships, to create trust, and foster inclusion. Police department leaders, LGBT members, and straight allies have been marching in pride parades for many years now. We’ve come too far to allow this kind of action by an organizing board to be tolerated.
I ask that you join me in calling upon Pride Toronto to reconsider the error of their ways and to welcome law enforcement back to the celebration. I was considering visiting Toronto this summer for pride, but you can count me out until things change.