Hamilton police hope to repair 'strained' relationship with LGBTQ2S+ community through new survey

A Hamilton Police officer is seen in this undated photo. (Twitter/@HamiltonPolice)

Police in Hamilton are taking steps to address their “strained” relationship with the city’s LGBTQ2S+ community by way of a new survey aimed at finding a facilitator to guide the conversations between the two groups.

“We’ve listened to the community and understand that trust has been lost with Hamilton’s Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities,” Chief Frank Bergen said in a news release issued last week.

“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.”

Developed in partnership with McMaster University, Dr.Tina Fetner, Chair of the Department of Sociology, said the survey and subsequent facilitator selection can lay a “foundation for good communication and community building in the future."

“This survey is one step in the process, looking for input from the 2S&LGBTIA+ community into the qualities of the facilitator who can establish new communication, what issues should be addressed and how we should move forward,” Fetner told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.

The relationship between the Hamilton Police Service and LGBTQ2S+ community is described in the survey as being “historically strained and fraught with distrust,” which Fetner says came to a head following violence at a Pride event two years ago.

On June 15, 2019, police said that religious anti-LGBTQ2S+ demonstrators clashed with attendees of the event at Gage Park. Accusations that there was a lack of action from officers during and after the altercation followed shortly after.

In response to the accusation, then Hamilton Police Chief Eric Girt said that because police were not invited to the event, the response by officers presented a “no-win situation.”

“When you’re asked not to be there, and then when you’re not there, how come you weren’t there?” Girt said during a local radio interview.

An external review of the event found Hamilton Police Service’s response to the altercation to be inadequate and was made worse by Girt’s comments.

Girt would later apologize for the comments. He retired in February.

“The queer community in Hamilton has felt that police have not listened to their concerns and do not address their needs for safety and protection,” Fetner said.

“As a sociologist, I would connect these events with a longer history of policing practices that involved harassment of this community that is much broader than just Hamilton.”

The survey is open to any adult member of the Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities in Hamilton and will run until September 30.

At that time, Fetner will compile a thematic analysis of the findings and the results will be shared with Hamilton Police.