Meet the police liaison to Vancouver’s LGBT community

Const. Dale Quiring is a straight, white man who says he’s up to the challenge

Constable Dale Quiring carries his inspiration in a non-descript black binder.

The 2008 Aaron Webster report, the 2015 Human Right’s Tribunal ruling in Angela Dawson’s complaints against the Vancouver Police Department and the 2016 Trans, Gender Variant and Two-Spirit Inclusion at the City of Vancouver report, among other things.

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Quiring is the department’s new full-time LGBTQ2S+ liaison officer.

“In this binder are my motivations,” he said, flipping through the pages. “All the things in here, I use to motivate and are the reasons why I proposed the position and also stimulated me to do a lot of stuff I’ve done.”

Quiring, a 16-year veteran of Vancouver Police Department, first proposed the idea for the position back in February. At the time he was working as the department’s hate crimes investigator, a role he had for four years, and took on the new liaison position in addition to his everyday duties. It got so busy that he suggested making it a full-time position, something that finally came to fruition at the end of September.

“It was taking up a tremendous amount of time but I was loving the work and I was loving working with the community,” Quiring said.

While many have welcomed his appointment and the creation of the position, it has also come with its fair share of criticism. Quiring, who describes himself as a cisgender straight white male, admits that not everyone in the LGBTQ2S+ community is happy with him being in the role.

“I love the position. I’ve taken some harsh criticism but that’s all part of it — that’s all part of being a police officer — and if I’m going to be a good ally then I need to listen and I need to be empathetic and I need to take the criticism and work with those who are on board and those who are not,” he said.

“I’m still learning and growing but I think when your intentions are to work with the community to build bridges and you have an empathetic approach to working with others, at some point you’re going to make some inroads — we have a long way to go.”

Morgane Oger, a transgender woman and chair of the Trans Alliance Society, has worked closely with Quiring.

“I’m happy that this role has been created. I think it’s important. I think the Vancouver police does well to have specific community liaison roles and the LGBTQ2S+ community, diverse as it is, will do well to have this liaison role,” she told the Courier.

Oger said that while the majority of the feedback she’s heard has been positive, there are critics. She adds that policing is difficult, especially within the trans community.

“I feel that the police liaison is a good tool to help demystify policing but at the same time most of the people don’t get to deal with the police liaison,” Oger said. “They get to deal with an officer or E-Comm and individual experiences may vary with E-Comm. There have been a number of reported problems, mostly of not being taken seriously, and with the VPD trans people, still today, tend to be leery, if not downright afraid of interacting with Vancouver police and there’s a lot of trust that needs to be built.”

She said a fear of police is still very real for many in the community.

Oger said that while she is pleased Quiring is on board he lacks the intrinsic fear of police that many in the LGBTQ2S+ community have that dealing with officers could lead to violence, or worse.

“But that fear is a core fear for many people in the trans community, even though I do not believe it is a realistic outcome in 2017 in Vancouver,” she said.

Andrea Arnot, executive director with Vancouver Pride Society, said creating the role marks progress at the department and it has brought more of a sense of transparency.

“We know that there’s a lot of work to be done,” she said.

Quiring said the idea for the position started with a meeting in the fall of 2015.

In November of that year, a subcommittee of the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ2S+ advisory committee met with him and his superior in the VPD’s diversity and aboriginal policing division.

“They wanted to know what VPD was going regarding the Angela Dawson recommendations that needed to be adhered to by March of 2016.”

In May 2015 the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Vancouver police officers discriminated against Dawson, a transgender woman, by using male pronouns to describe her in a police report and failed to provide her with proper post-surgery care while in custody.

The ruling included recommendations for the department to improve relations with transgender persons, including updating “transgender awareness training” to all officers, developing policy regarding transgender identification and the recording of a person’s gender in documents, and amending the VPD’s jail manual of operations to ensure medical concerns are identified and addressed.

From that meeting, he was asked to look into it and take care of working through the recommendations.

He said the committee also referenced the Aaron Webster report.

The report came out of a series of public and community-specific forums hosted in 2008 by The Centre, a community centre serving and supporting lesbian, gay, transgender people and their allies, and Vancouver police. The forums were launched in the West End on Nov. 17, the seventh anniversary of Aaron Webster’s murder.

Webster, a gay man, was beaten to death in 2001 in Stanley Park near Second Beach. He was chased by a group of youths and beaten with baseball bats.

The report stemming from the forums included a number of recommendations, including ensuring that police officers receive ongoing training on LGBTQ communities, as well as training on trans-specific issues, and including transgender identity in VPD’s human resource policy.

“When they came in and I read the Aaron Webster report, it was immediately after I read it I said, ‘This has to be. We need to do more. We need to embrace this and go forward.’”

Quiring decided to make a video to help train front-line officers on how to embrace, and work better with, the transgender community.

“I went out, self-taught, immersed myself in the trans community, went to workshops and got to know a lot of great people in the community.”

The video, Walk with Me, was initially meant just for the department, but after it was posted online in June 2016 it started to get a lot of attention from outside the department. To date it’s been viewed more than 53,300 times.

At the same time, he also started the Safe Place initiative. Something he initially learned about while at a hate crimes conference in Seattle and thought it would do well in Vancouver.

“It’s a program for victims of any kind of crime or a hate incident in the LGBTQ community, so if they’re being harassed, threatened, or they were a victim of a crime and they see that decal — that decal represents that that business has pledged to support that individual, to come in, it’s a safe haven, and wait for police,” Quiring said. “But our promise is that we will come and we will not dismiss the call. And when we come we will work with that victim, be as empathetic as we can. No judgment, no bias, use our active listening skills and work with that victim. Now we may not be able to solve the issue but we’re providing that support and that’s the trust that we want to build because a lot of trans folks, unfortunately, don’t trust the police.”

So far, 334 businesses have signed up and he is working to help bring the program to other communities in the province.

He set up an LGBTQ2S+ liaison committee for the department, which helped craft the new policy regarding transgender identification and the recording of a person’s gender in documents, and amend the VPD’s jail manual of operations to ensure medical concerns are identified and addressed, which was part of the human rights tribunal’s recommendations.

The policy came out in June. Quiring admits that it was two months late — it was supposed to be completed by March — but adds he wanted to consult with as many people as possible.

Quiring is not the first in the position. When Chief Adam Palmer announced the position in this year’s VPD annual report, which was released to the public in May, he referenced that the department has had officers liaising with the community in the past but added that this is the first time in the department’s history that an officers is dedicated full-time to “provide support to the LGBTQ2S+ community.”

In February, he was awarded the Chief Constables Commendation for his work for “his unwavering support of the LGBTQ2+ community, and ensuring their human rights, voices and concerns are not only heard but embraced.” Palmer or Quiring?

 Quiring said being in the position has had its ups and downs so far.

“It’s been a rollercoaster certainly with Pride and the issues we’ve faced,” he said, referring to some in the LGBTQ2S+ community protesting the department’s involvement in the annual Pride Parade.

“I’m not going to say it was easy but nothing is easy and if you want to make inroads you have to be there and show that you’re a strong ally and show that you’re committed,” Quiring said.

“There are people that are angry and frustrated and say it’s a long time coming, but I’m just here to listen and understand, certainly not dismiss history,” he said. “Understand our history and build from it.”

jkerr@vancourier.com

 

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