efforts to set up a gay-policeliaison committee that would help smooth tense relations between the gay community and police have hit a major snag.
At issue is membership on the committee. A working group in the gay community wants to make sure the committee is representative of the community's diversity and uniqueness and wants to see gays, lesbians, transsexuals and transgendered people, among others, elected to the group.
The police, on the other hand, don't want any sex workers, many of whom are gainfully employed in the gay ghetto, on the committee. Nor do police want anyone with a criminal record, and they insist on conducting security checks on potential members.
Members of the gay community who've been privy to the discussions say police have threatened to withdraw their participation unless their conditions are met.
The turn has left some in the gay community wondering just how committed chief Julian Fantino is to improving relations a year after he extended an olive branch to the community in a much-publicized tour. Ever since that time, the goodwill the police built up has been tested by raids on gay hangouts and highly publicized arrests at at least one bathhouse.
This latest development may set already fragile relations further back.
Detractors are already starting to come out of the woodwork. "There are those who have said, "Why bother talking to the police at all?'" says Nicci Stein, a spokesperson for the working group.
She confirms that an ultimatum has been delivered by police, but declines to say much more. A formal statement is being prepared by the group for release some time this week.
Anastasia Kuzyk, a sex worker who lives in the area and represents the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto, is less reluctant to express her opinion. She says the police are simply trying to "stack the deck to get who they want on the committee."
The end result, Kuzyk says, will be "a dog-and-pony show" in which police call all the shots. "Where's the accountability?" she asks.
Staff superintendent Emory Gilbert, the police's point person on the issue, did not respond to a request for comment.
Some speculate that the police don't want sensitive info that may be dealt with by the gay-police liaison committee leaked to the public.
But James Dubro, a former chair of the Church-Wellesley police liaison committee, scoffs.
He says liaison committees rarely, if ever, deal with info that could be considered so sensitive that a security check is required of its members.
"It's never been a problem," says Dubro. "And, of course, the police are certainly under no obligation to reveal anything that's secret."
The committee "is not meant as a vehicle for secret information," Dubro says. "It's just meant as another vehicle for better understanding and more sensitivity."
Area councillor Kyle Rae, who's been keeping his distance from the fray, thinks the entire process has gone off on what he calls a "peculiar" tangent.
On the one hand, he says the community is trying to do the "politically correct thing" and include members who represent all the interests of the community instead of people who have experience dealing with police. On the other, the cops are being controlling.
"Both the community and police could be shooting themselves in the foot," Rae says.