Just when city councillor Kyle Rae was finally getting up a good head of steam on the increasingly brazen cop incursions into gay space, along comes a letter from the controversy-mired officers, threatening to sue him.
It's no surprise that the cop's name on the letter is Dave Wilson's, the 52 Division plainclothes flatfoot who's been part of nearly all the controversial moves against queer places. Before he sashayed into the lesbian bathhouse called Pussy Palace earlier this month, he led the campaign against the Bijou bar/porn cinema. (Remember the slurp ramp?) And he showed up at the "naked nights" a couple of the bars used to hold. Wilson soon put a stop to that.
According to the police, when Wilson and a number of other officers crashed the women's bathhouse two weeks ago, they were following up two complaints they'd received. Since the event had obtained a liquor licence, it was open to inspection by Wilson's liquor detail. However, despite a lengthy search of the premises, no charges have been laid.
Superintendent Aidan Maher of 52 Division says the two complaints came from citizens who had attended the Pussy Palace in the past. The event has been held on three prior occasions and the police did not attend any of them.
Rae immediately slammed the raid as police harassment of the gay and lesbian community, criticizing the officers for allegedly acting on their own.
In a press release the councillor issued after the raid, he called for "an investigation into the actions of Detective Dave Wilson and the other officers involved" and stated that he would be "laying a complaint against detective Wilson for harassment of the gay and lesbian communities...."
But politicians who dare criticize cops these days had better watch their words. Two former members of the police board who've dared to be critical, Judy Sgro and Olivia Chow, have already been sent packing.
Now, Rae's received notice from Wilson's lawyer, Michael Freeman. According to Rae, the letter demands that he apologize and retract his comments or face legal action.
Sounding slightly shaken, Rae tells NOW, "This kind of action by police officers is potentially a way of muzzling councillors, and that's dangerous in a democracy."
After meeting with the city's legal department this week, Rae issued a "clarification" of his earlier comments.
It states that after discussions with police chief Julian Fantino, police superintendent Bill Blair of corporate communications and Maher, "I believed the officers had acted on their own without authority. This is why I stated that the officers were 'rogue cops.' I am told that my remarks have caused the officers tremendous upset. It was not my intention to impugn the personal integrity of those police officers, nor would I have wished my choice of language to detract from the important issues of policing in the gay and lesbian community."
Rae also states that "Whether or not the police officers were acting under specific orders or in response to actual complaints, they must be held accountable for their actions. I firmly believe that these police actions caused unnecessary distress to members of my community and constituted an unjustified interference with their rights as citizens."
Freeman confirms that he sent a letter on behalf of Wilson and other unnamed officers at 52 Division.
"If councillor Rae wishes to share the contents of the letter with you, that's up to him," Freeman says. "We've asked for the courtesy of a reply by 5 pm (Wednesday, September 27). And if we do not recieve a reply by 5 o'clock then I'll have to speak with officer Wilson and the others and decide where we go from there."
Maher says he had heard about the lawyer's letter but has not discussed it with Wilson.
"It's really nothing that I would get involved in," Maher says. "I guess the area is defamation. Really, it is a private matter with the officers."
Maher says, however, that the officers were not renegades, but were doing their duty.
Police Association president Craig Bromell was not available for comment.
Recent actions by police
Repeated visits to Bijou cinema/bar force the establishment to shut down. Later reopens as a bathhouse.
Force suspension of Naked Night at Barn after repeated police visits.
Ditto Naked Night at Toolbox after one police visit.
Ticket nude bathers at Hanlan's Point nude beach.
Harass gay men cruising in parks late at night as part of "community action policing."
Crash Pussy Palace.