Letter to the Editor: Police marching in Pride promotes acceptance

I read with interest your article in the March 2 edition of The Gauntlet “Pride is for people, not institutions like the police.” While I appreciate your concerns, I thought I’d let you know the history of the CPS marching in the Pride Parade.
I worked with the CPS on their diversity organizational change strategy in the 90s. At the time, the Cultural Resources Unit, had just created a portfolio for an officer to liaise with the LGBT (no Q or + in those days) community. That officer went on to be highly regarded in the community. He was also concerned with hate crime directed at gender and sexually diverse peoples so he instigated the first Hate Crime Coordinator position in a police service in Alberta. Most of Alberta’s police services now have hate crime units and the Alberta Hate Crime Awareness Committee, a cross-province volunteer organization, is also still in place from that early work.
The community advisory committee suggested at the time that the CPS should participate in the Pride parade. There was a great deal of resistance to this idea, but there were a number of reasons to go ahead:
1.It would send a message of acceptance to LGBTQ+ members in the police service. There was a lot of fear around coming out in the service and many of the officers who march in the parade are from the community and/or are strong allies. They provide positive role models.
2.It would send a positive message to a community that traditionally is distrustful of police for good reason. And it did improve community relations immensely.
3.It would send a loud message to hate groups that the police support LGBTQ+ people.
So, your assertion that this is a cynical public relations move is quite misplaced. It was and is a genuine commitment led by a few forward thinking officers, to live the values of community policing and to show their respect and support for members of the communities and for fellow officers struggling for acceptance. It has gone beyond the early grassroots support of a few, to being something of pride in the service itself.
In all my work with police services, I have always believed that police officers are our neighbours, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, etc., and that the more we work together as allies in the community, the more we will have a police service that is just and fair. I am not an apologist for police services, when they do wrong, I call them out and have worked with them to effect change. But suggesting they don’t belong marching side by side with fellow citizens creates an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality that I consider to be detrimental to equity and inclusion goals.
Valerie Pruegger,
Director of the University of Calgary Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure

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