Was that late-night visit to the Pussy Palace by Metro's finest a little project of Chief Julian Fantino's or merely the work of rogue elements in the police force anxious to destabilize sensitive gay-cop relations?
No one can quite decide. Councillor Kyle Rae says he spoke to Fantino the morning after the raid and the chief knew nothing about it.
"If there is a crackdown, it's a Dave Wilson crackdown," says Rae angrily. Wilson, he points out, led the investigation team at the bathhouse and was also behind police raids last year at the Bijou, a gay bar where several men were arrested for indecent acts during a so-called routine liquor licence inspection.
The charges were later dropped.
Wilson would not comment on the investigation except to say that it is his belief that charges will be laid.
Superintendent Aiden Maher of 52 Division appears to have two very different explanations for the raid. He tells me first that the visit was routine for an event that held a special-occasion permit at a premises where liquor is not usually served.
"There are 12 bathhouses in operation in this city, and only two have liquor licences," he says. "These two are subject to inspection. Since a special-occasion permit was issued in this case, it was subject to inspection."
Later, though, when I call him back, he says the raid was prompted by complaints from people who had attended previous lesbian bathhouse nights. However, he would not reveal the nature of the complaints.
Rae doesn't take either motive seriously.
"He couldn't tell you what the complaint was? Obviously, they can just make it up as they go along, can't they?" he says.
On the subject of checking out special-occasion permits, Rae asks, "When was the last time you went to a wedding or a bar mitzvah and had a police officer arrive?"
Police seem to lack the resources to deal with street prostitution or drug dealing, he says, yet there's lots of time for harassing lesbians. "If these guys don't want to be police officers," he adds, "I'll find them waitering jobs."
Janet Rowe, a member of the bathhouse organizing committee, believes the invasion had the fingerprints of the chief all over it.
"It is no coincidence that this happened under Julian Fantino," she says. "I think the gay community has clearly been targeted.
"The intent of the bathhouse is to create a safe environment for women to explore their sexuality," adds Rowe. "Then we have the cops walking through, questioning (the women), knocking on doors and seeing them scantily clad. It made them feel really violated."
Maher says he is conducting an investigation and will send a report to Fantino, who he hopes will make a decision on charges before he leaves for Sydney on Thursday.
A gay community meeting to develop a coordinated response will be held tonight (Thursday, September 21) from 7 to 10 pm at the 519 Church Community Centre.