I am not anti-Police by any measure. I just wish my experiences allowed me to feel about the institution the same way many of you do. I know plenty of amazing individual officers who genuinely mean well. But when an INSTITUTION has a systemic problem, it must be fixed. Something like policing can't only work for some of us some of the time. People's lives are on the line. That's how much power the police have. That is not something that should be taken lightly. EVERYONE's lives should matter and be treated with the same care when you have the power to literally destroy someone's life. Right? So...with that being said, this whole HIV/AIDS thing from a violent arrest where an officer was attacked by a disturbed man and another officer's comment's in regards to his HIV status is EXACTLY why BLMTO protested having the INSTITUTION of policing involved in Pride.
These officers are NOT being trained and supported in a way that protects them and the community. There are vulnerable people who are part of that community who get treated like absolute shit by the policing institution because of that lack of training and care. Police officers are people and their brains work like everyone else's. Dealing with poor people, who may have mental health issues and may be HIV+ is fucking taxing. Especially when they attack one of your own. You know what kicks in during times of stress? Your habits. For people in professional services, those habits should be supplanted by their training. Clearly that was lacking in this situation and kudos to the Toronto Police for addressing this fact head on.
Personally, I would like to see an emphasis on community policing and emotional counselling for the officers working in these areas as well, but these are good starts. Police are people. Their humanity must mean as much to us as we want our humanity to mean to them.
With that being said though, us acting like everything is hunky dory when it's not with the police and all the members of the LGBTQ community is called #PinkWashing. Learn that term.
It's very easy to take some pictures and say some nice words, but not doing enough to train your officers on how to deal with the community they are policing and not doing enough to help your officers who may be having difficulty dealing with that community puts both of their lives at risk. It does a disservice to the community and to the officers themselves. It endangers them and us. I've volunteered in missions and I've lived in those areas. When I was part of a youth service organization, 20 years ago, the first thing I was given was a walking tour of the area we would be servicing. Police need to be deeply embedded in the neighbourhoods they serve.
This incident happened in front of my old neighbourhood convenience store. Dealing with some of the stuff that goes on there is NOT easy. But here are some facts: Alot of homeless people are homeless because they got kicked out of their homes for being LGBTQ. Alot of them come to Toronto and end up on the streets. Alot of them end up falling into sex work and alot of them end up with substance abuse problems and mental health issues. Therefore, a lot of them end up dealing with the police. Alot of those interactions aren't good. The fact is though, you make a choice to become an officer and those officers must be given every option to do that job to the best of their ability. That means an emphasis on community policing.
the system of allocating police officers to particular areas so that they become familiar with the local inhabitants.
That means training. That means counselling for the officers in these areas. That means exercising understanding and yes, compassion. #AllLivesMatter, right? Speaking truth to power is part of our job as citizens. That's what #BLMTO does. Far from being "trouble makers and terrorists" they are the best of us. Concerned citizens who want the best for all of us, especially the most vulnerable.
(BLMTO activists showing solidarity for the indigenous community at police headquarters)
My question is though...is where are all those loud voices so angry and critical of BLMTO and Pride today? Where is your outrage that an officer would spread that kind of ignorance? Did you even understand the dynamics that I laid out before you formed your opinion? Do you even know yourself that you would literally need to drink GALLONS of spit to have a chance of getting HIV? Do you realize how many gay men and women suffered and died in silent shame from stigma? Literally, the AIDS epidemic in the 80's was exacerbated by stigma. People died from other people's ignorance. People died because other people stayed silent. Just like you are now. I guess all lives DON'T matter, huh?
The ultimate measure of a society isn't in how many pretty buildings it can build. It's in how it treats its most vulnerable. That's a message I fear is getting lost in Toronto.