Hamilton Police have partnered with McMaster University to ask the city’s LGBTQ2 residents how they’d like to communicate with police and mend the relationship with the community.
That work is starting with a short anonymous survey that asks what the LGBTQ2 community would be looking for in a facilitator between themselves and police.
“We’ve listened to the community and understand that trust has been lost with Hamilton’s Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ communities,” said Chief Frank Bergen in a release.
“That’s why it is imperative to involve the community in the selection of a facilitator so we can begin the conversation on how to move forward.”
The move is the latest effort from Hamilton police to improve their relationship with LGBTQ2 residents after their response to violence at the 2019 Pride festival was condemned in an independent report.
Earlier this summer, the service announced that it was making its LGBTQ2 liaison officer role a full-time position.
Sgt. Rebecca Moran said she’s “honoured” to be in the role, adding that it’s important to have someone with lived experience in that position.
“We know that that that trust has been lost and it is of the utmost importance that we try and rebuild that.”
Moran said having McMaster help with the consultation will hopefully make it easier for members of the LGBTQ2 residents to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
“We want to make sure that the community and the members of the community feel very safe to respond honestly. And in order for that process to be true and genuine, we have to be transparent and it’s got to be safe for people to participate and speak freely.”
Tina Fetner, chair of McMaster’s department of sociology, is leading the research as an “independent third-party survey administrator,” and will let Hamilton police know what respondents have to say through a report following the survey.
She said Hamilton police seem to be taking steps — including the appointment of Moran as a full-time liaison officer — “in good faith,” although acknowledged it should have happened earlier.
“There’s no doubt that the Hamilton Police Service has had serious missteps and that that is something that now they’ve acknowledged and are trying to change,” said Fetner.
The survey, which will run until Sept. 30, asks participants to anonymously answer questions about what qualities, qualifications and experience an ideal facilitator between the LGBTQ2 community and Hamilton police would have.
“We’re hoping everyone will log on and take ten minutes of their day to contribute to it,” she said. “And then it’s going to establish the terms a little bit for how those conversations go in the future.”
“It is not about resolving any of the problems, it’s about what steps do we need to take to get to the place where we can start resolving those problems.”