Checking in with the WRPS, by Scott Williams
In June for Pride Month, we decided to check in with our partners at the Waterloo Regional Police Service to get a better sense of their work with respect to the Rainbow Community in Waterloo Region. This is what the WRPS have shared with us about their work with the LGBTQ+ community.
You’ve probably seen the WRPS Pride cruiser at local events and just doing regular patrols. The car was an initiative of the WRPS Diversity Committee which has been meeting for a number of years to discuss issues related to diversity in our community and how the WRPS can best serve. There is a sub-committee for all things LGBTQ+ and they have been working in different areas including public appearances at events like the tri-Pride Festival and our OK2BME GSA Conference, and on education for members of the WRPS (members include both sworn police officers and civilian staff members).
Sergeant Julie Sudds sits on the Diversity Committee and serves as Academic Supervisor in the WRPS’ Training Branch. Sudds has been responsible for creating and delivering training on LGBTQ+ issues to the WRPS. In 2015-2016 she engaged in training on transgender awareness and understanding. She educated members on what the Ontario Human Rights code says about transgender people’s rights and encouraged discussion and learning on how the WRPS can better support transgender members of the community. Sudds also sits on the Rainbow Community Council where she learns about the various LGBTQ+ groups in our community and their work. As a member of the Rainbow Community herself, Sudds understands the importance of the WRPS being present and willing to learn with and work from these organizations.
Back in January, Staff Sergeant Donna Mancuso was appointed Inclusion and Equity Officer for the WRPS. Though the Diversity Committee has done great work, the WRPS decided to take the additional proactive approach of having a dedicated staff member working in this area. Mancuso has a large mandate that includes recognizing and responding to the needs of various diverse members of our community. Mancuso reaches out to people of different faith groups, cultural backgrounds, and LGBTQ+ people to build connections and help the WRPS respond to their varied needs. Mancuso brings her learnings back to the WRPS to educate her colleagues but also educates community members on what the WRPS has to offer. Mancuso also works in conjunction with the WRPS Human Resources Branch to develop new recruitment strategies to have the members of WRPS be as reflective as possible of the community as a whole.
Another member of the Diversity Committee is Constable Stephen Churm. Those who attended our 2017 GSA Conference: Living Rainbow might remember Churm from our Career and Work Life panel. Churm does a great deal of work in local schools, especially with GSAs. He has recently been involved with a Male Mentorship initiative where he acts as a role model for youth and helps to educate them on LGBTQ+ issues. This initiative was developed in response to seeing low numbers of male youth joining GSAs.
The WRPS has been supporting the Day of Pink for the last few years. You might notice police officers wearing pink epaulets or pink shoe laces on the second Wednesday in April. Sergeant Ryan Leslie spearheaded the 5 Days of Pink Campaign in 2016. This was a unique way for the WRPS to engage with the community and to fight against bullying, discrimination, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and transmisogyny.
At this year’s tri-Pride Festival, the WRPS had a booth where they could engage with LGBTQ+ people and answer any questions they may have regarding a career with the WRPS. Sergeant Sudds says “The WRPS membership is representative of the community at large. We have openly serving LGBTQ+ members and in our recruitment efforts we are always open to diversity.” The WRPS has an internal focus on education and awareness. “We are constantly offering training on diversity, inclusion and equity and looking for ways to partner with the community so we know how to serve the community better,” says Sudds.
In 2015, there were four hate crime incidents that appeared to target the Rainbow Community in Waterloo Region. Three of those were graffiti-related. Statistics Canada notes that for 2015, “police-reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation declined 9% for the year.”
The WRPS continues to work against these types of occurrences. “We are extremely proud to support inclusiveness and diversity as an organization,” said Donna Mancuso. “We are committed to raising awareness and social tolerance with a goal to create a safe and inclusive community for everyone.”