London, Ont. police board defers decision on policy sparked by Clara Sorrenti arrest

In a video posted to her YouTube page, Clara Sorrenti holds a copy of the search warrant obtained by police after a series of false threats. Keffals / YouTube

Correction: A previous version of this story contained incorrect background information on the website Kiwi Farms, including when and why the website was originally created. The details have been removed. Global News regrets the error.

Members of the London Police Services Board (LPSB) voted on Thursday to defer a decision on a policy aimed at ensuring that transgender and transsexual people aren’t deadnamed or misgendered while detained or searched by police until after an internal police conduct review is completed.

The draft policy came in response to issues raised last month by the arrest and detention of Clara Sorrenti, a transgender activist and streamer known as “Keffals,” following a swatting incident involving a fake threat that was emailed to city councillors in her name.

Police Chief Steve Williams later confirmed that Sorrenti was the victim of a swatting, and apologized after a bag of evidence was labelled with her birth name in reference to prior police files, he said. Sorrenti had also accused officers of using her deadname during her arrest.

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An internal review into the conduct of London police during Sorrenti’s arrest was subsequently launched, a review which remains ongoing, Williams told board members on Thursday.

“That incident, the swatting, remains under investigation, and the manner in which we responded, first responders and officers involved in the investigation, is still under review,” he told the board.

The review, separate from the criminal investigation into the fake threat, would likely be completed in 30 to 60 days, Williams said, although he noted his timeline was a ballpark estimate. “I don’t see it being less than that.”

In a 3-2 decision, board members endorsed a motion tabled by Coun. Maureen Cassidy to defer a decision on the draft policy until after the review is complete, after which time a report from the chief would go before the London Police Services Board Governance Committee for discussion.

Read more: London, Ont. police chief apologizes after trans activist was victim of ‘swatting’

The draft policy put forward at Thursday’s meeting states that the chief would “ensure that when dealing with transgender or transsexual individuals, officers will be sensitive to human rights, privacy issues and use the stated gender identification preference of the individual being searched.”

“Officers will also use gender-appropriate pronouns, without jeopardizing officer safety and the need to search,” the draft policy continues.

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As well, Williams would be required to report police statistics related to the search and detention of transgender people on an annual basis to the police board.

Williams said he reviewed the draft policy and, “I completely agree with the spirit of the policy, and that every person who comes into contact with the police, either in the community or those who are placed under arrest and taken into custody, that they be treated with respect and treated in an unbiased manner.”

The draft policy’s language is similar to that used by Toronto Police Services — the only department out of the province’s 12 largest police forces to have such a policy.

“Just for your information, we do have a robust search and detention procedure, as well as a fair and impartial policing document that guides the actions of officers,” he added.

“Having said all that, when the investigation and the review are complete, we will consider all the information and then determine if there are opportunities to improve upon our procedures.”

Read more: Twitch streamer and transgender activist doxxed in Northern Ireland after leaving Canada

Sorrenti’s arrest drew international headlines and brought intense scrutiny toward London police and its handling of the incident, including the initial emailed threat in which Sorrenti’s last name is misspelled.

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The 28-year-old is a popular streamer on the website Twitch, who often talks about issues involving the transgender community, politics, and provides social commentary. Her Twitter account has more than 151,000 followers.

“Hello, my name is Clara Sorenti…I am a transgender person. I have had enough of you anti transgenders being in positions of power and oppressing us. You finally broke me, you cisgendered transphobic a-holes,” the email sent to city councillors read.

“When this is over this entire city will remember my name. I have killed my transphobic mother and today I will be going out to city hall and shooting every cis-gendered person I see with a gun I illegally acquired.”

Police arrived at Sorrenti’s apartment with guns drawn and took her into custody, holding her for approximately 11 hours.

Click to play video: 'Red flags aplenty in London police’s swatting of Twitch streamer Clara Sorenti, expert says'
Red flags aplenty in London police’s swatting of Twitch streamer Clara Sorenti, expert says

“In this case, with that threat, that is the appropriate response,” London police Deputy Chief Trish McIntyre told Global News last month.

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Two alerts and urgent calls from city hall security led to police escalating the situation, she said, adding that given the content of the email and the photo of the gun that was included, the threat seemed credible.

Sorrenti told Global News that she and her family had been the target of harassment and were doxxed in late March, and that she and her brother had told London police they wanted to be put on a “no swatting list” but were told no list existed.

Prior to her arrest in London, Toronto police had also received an email similar to that received by London city councillors, but in that case, Toronto police notified Sorrenti and did not escalate the matter further.

London police say they are continuing to investigate the fake threat to find the email’s original sender.

Read more: Kiwi Farms, site at centre of Clara Sorrenti doxxing, dropped by 2nd hosting provider

Following her release from London police custody, Sorrenti continued to face an online hate campaign.

Fearing continued harassment at her home, Sorrenti checked into a local hotel where she was doxxed again with pizza deliveries arriving under her name. Sorrenti later left Canada for Northern Ireland, but was the subject of a doxxing and swatting attempt there as well.

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The campaign against Sorrenti has been led largely by the website Kiwi Farms, which has been a rallying point for the harassment and doxxing of trans people, feminists and people of colour since it was founded nearly a decade ago by Joshua Conner Moon, 29.

An overarching theme of the site’s discussions have centered on users’ fierce opposition to transgender children receiving gender-affirming medical care. Members typically refer to those who support such treatment as “groomers” and “pedophiles,” rhetoric that is also used increasingly by conservatives in their opposition to LGBTQ2 rights.

Earlier this month, Kiwi Farms was dropped by two web protection services, Cloudflare and DDoS-Guard.

— with files from Andrew Graham, Ahmar Khan, Amy Simon and The Associated Press

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