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Unacceptable

Unacceptable

Police recommendations on HIV case are not credible
We should have asked you your opinion, although we would have ignored it. That’s the contradictory message delivered by Inspector Joan McKenna, the co-chair of the Police Liaison Committee to the queer community.

Not good enough.

Given the weakness of the results, the latest police recommendations — stemming from a recent high-profile HIV nondisclosure case and released belatedly this week — are simply not credible.

Ottawa Police Services (OPS) conducted a debrief of how it handled the release of the name and photo of a gay man who allegedly had unprotected sex without disclosing his HIV status. A second version of that press release — with the term “sexual predator” thrown in for good measure — was distributed through the mailing list of the Police Liaison Committee to the queer community.

“I don’t think it would have changed the end result,” said McKenna. “We would still have put out his picture, but there would have been more consultation with the community. Because again, our role is public safety, so we felt there was a concern to the community at large, to be aware of, that this person was engaged in unsafe sex.”

Police cite their obligation to inform communities of imminent threats, which harkens to the mandatory release of information about serial predators on the prowl.

The accused in this case wasn’t on the prowl — he was already in custody. So the pressing concern was promoting STI testing, ostensibly. But judging from the way complainants have mounted — the man now faces six accusers — it certainly appears that the release of his name and photo were designed to ferret out more evidence and more complainants.

In other words, lazy police work. And perversely, the OPS’s concern for “community safety” may have put more of us at risk, since HIV disclosure has gotten a lot harder for people in Ottawa since May.

The report’s conclusion — we need more consultation — combined with McKenna’s realistic assessment that they would have released the poz guy’s photo anyway lays bare the problems of police-queer relations in Ottawa.

The battle over the safer inhalation program is a perfect example. You’ll remember that the program was championed widely by AIDS activists in the city. Amidst revelations that police were confiscating the safer pipes from users — and after Chief Vern White’s ignorant comments on the matter — queers tried to use the liaison committee to have their say. They were politely listened to, then ignored.

It’s been worse than that, with the liaison committee at times becoming defenders of the police rather than spokespeople for the queer community’s concern — like when they tried to tamp down our outrage after the beating of drag personality Dixie Landers.

I’ve worried in the past that the liaison had become, finally and completely, a volunteer arm of the police communications and public relations team.

On July 17, there was a glimmer of hope. The queers on the committee stated unequivocally a demand (one of the first I’ve seen them make in four years), namely that this report be released quickly, rather than waiting until September.

That demand was met by police — albeit in a semi-private meeting, and copies weren’t actually circulated. I look forward to what queers on that committee do next.

The bottom line is that HIV nondisclosure should be handled with the same sensitivity as domestic abuse cases. In domestic abuse cases, there are no press releases and only aggregate information is released publicly.

That’s what I’d say if I were consulted about a case like this. But then, my position, as McKenna points out, would simply be ignored. And that’s just not good enough.

Comments

I feel Marcus/Cap X has become a vehicle to...
I'm an independent member of ottawa's queer community for over 40 years now who currently sits on the police GLBT Liaison Committee. I attend all meetings. Bauer,Marcus/Cap X and other "community leaders" do not. CoChair Steele does not represent all the queers in Ottawa, nor does Cap X. Blogs are showing, the majority of us have been satisfied with the police move to post the photo and name of a person who made it a point to say he wanted to "fuck and infect." For those of you who would like access, I have about 20years of the GO INFO in storage with ads from the ACO ie. Captain Condom cartoons... articles etc. that have promoted safe sex and the importance of telling a potential partner whether male or female that you are HIV positive and that testing is easy and anonymous. This is not a queer hunt by police to find anyone with an STD! Kudos to police for printing that pic. This is about fucking and infecting. Ottawa Police for once is trying to protect us, not create a police state or a puppet committee as spouted off by CoChair Steele at the last meeting who found her self under attack when Bauer criticized her Chairing role in not knowing about the debriefing apparently believed by some to have been that evening. I was under the impression from the previous meeting that the debriefing was to happen after the trial was over. What do I know, I only attend every monthly meeting; not just once or twice a year like Bauer, Cap X and others who seem to come to create or print fictional sensationalism. Why not come to these meetings regularly and help create new policy. Rather that bitch about what isn't being done, stick around and become part of the solution. What took 20 years to create in terms of police and community it seems is taking minutes to destroy by just a hand full of people.
What about the Police event at Pride?
Marcus, you do a nice job tying together this case, the safer inhalation debate and other instances where the Ottawa Police LGBT Liaison Committee seem to be working more for the cops than for the community they claim to serve. The queer people who sit on that Committee have a very challenging role and finding the right balance must be difficult. Despite their good intentions, it must sometimes feel like they are being used by the police as a PR exercise. My question is: the Ottawa Police LGBT Liaison Committee have a pancake breakfast event scheduled during Capital Pride (http://www.capitalpride.ca/ottawa-police-services-pancake-breakfast) -- but what is the purpose of this event? If the OPS and the Committee have let the community down in some very significant ways recently, why would we then let them use our pride celebrations to meet their own goals? Isn't this just more of the same PR co-optation?
Bravo
Bravo, Marcus, for an insightful commentary on both the facts of this particular case of alleged HIV non-disclosure, and on the current dysfunctionality within the Ottawa Police Services GLBT Police Liaison Committee. Let's be clear - the majority of community members of the Liaison Committee, at their May meeting, wholeheartedly supported the police strategy on this case. Those who spoke out against the way the police handled this case were those who attended as observers only, not formal members, including the Gay Men's Wellness Initiative, Bruce House, the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, and Jer's Vision. And it was the non-members of the Committee, including myself, Capital Xtra and Jay Koornstra of Bruce House, who showed up this month and forced the disclosure of the operational review. The Gay Men's Wellness Initiative has been dismayed from its observation of recent meetings of the Liaison Committee, for the very reasons you cite in your writings. We believe it lacks an effective and strong voice for gay men's issues. It seems more focused on exchanging community BBQ and golf tournament notices with police, than with the hard work of thinking through and articulating, in a clear and strong voice, the diversity of community views. From a community standpoint, it clearly needs an overhaul. Brent H. Bauer, on behalf of the Gay Men's Wellness Initiative
Shame
Media campaigns like this are a form of violence against people with HIV and a form of trial by public hanging. The police release of photos of criminalized poz people for the purpose of a "fishing expedition" for additional charges to lay is not merely lazy, it is pernicious.
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