Police in Lethbridge, Alta., aim to be more transgender sensitive
The Lethbridge Police Service will now train officers on proper gender identity terminology and pronouns, as well as improved diversity awareness.
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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — A police force in southern Alberta says it has made changes to how officers should interact with transgender individuals.
The Lethbridge Police Service heard concerns and received an official complaint last April after an officer posted a comment on his personal Facebook page about a transgender woman.
Dillon Hargreaves had been at a ceremony at the Alberta legislature on women's suffrage and the Facebook post suggested her attendance was inappropriate.
"I think Dillon is very brave, however, I believe this makes a mockery of important women's issues,'' the post said.
It also called Hargreaves a transgender male.
"I live my life as a woman and I identify as female,'' Hargreaves said at the time. "Not all women have the same issues, but we can all work together to make a difference for women."
Hargreaves said she had been invited to the ceremony by Lethbridge member of the legislature, Shannon Phillips, who is also the environment minister.
The police began a professional standards investigation and determined the employee had not identified himself as an officer on Facebook nor did he claim to represent the views of the Lethbridge Police Service.
The officer retired in June, but the force opted to continue with a review of its policies.
"Society is always changing. What we deal with is always changing, so it was a good opportunity to revisit our policies, and it was clear we had an area to beef up there," Chief Rob Davis said at a news conference Thursday.
The police force already had a policy on searching and housing transgender prisoners, Davis said, but guidelines have been added on gender identity terminology and the proper use of pronouns. Mandatory diversity awareness training has also been improved.
"Rather than assuming or defaulting to what's on a driver's licence, instead, (have) a conversation as to how the person would like to be addressed," Davis said.
"It's been my experience in policing that we get very rigid sometimes and we lose sight of little things like that. A simple conversation can really alleviate a lot of concerns."
A video produced by the Vancouver Police Department, titled "Walk with Me," has been given to officers of all ranks so they can better understand how to best serve the transgender community. It's been well received by everyone so far, Davis said.
Police consulted with the original complainant as well as with LGBTQ groups.
"We don't see colour. We don't see religion. We don't see race. We're here to keep everybody safe ... It's important that we understand and have appreciation for everybody that makes up our city."
— With files from Lethbridge News Now