LETHBRIDGE - The Lethbridge Police Service hopes it's taking steps in the right direction when it comes to understanding transgender issues.
The shift in perspective came after a complaint in April 2016, alleging that an officer commented on a transgender woman on his personal social media. The woman was invited as a guest to a ceremony recognizing 100 years of women's suffrage at the Alberta Legislature, according to police.
Chief Rob Davis promptly ordered an internal investigation into the situation. It determined that the accused did not identify himself as an officer, nor did he claim to represent the views of the LPS. The officer in question then retired on June 2, meaning the service lost all jurisdiction in the professional standards investigation.
Despite all of that, the LPS committed itself to a comprehensive review of its policies and procedures.
"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," noted Chief Davis in an interview.
With help from local LGBT groups and other police services, Lethbridge added an "Interactions with Transgender Persons" policy. The LPS already had procedures in place in regard to searching and housing transgender prisoners, but this new addition provides guidelines for gender identity terminology, pronouns and mandatory awareness training.
"Rather than assuming or defaulting to what's on a driver's licence, instead having a conversation as to how the person would like to be addressed.
"It's been my experience in policing that we get very rigid sometimes and we lose sight of little things like that," Davis continued. "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 to better understand how they can best serve the local transgender community. Davis added that it's been well received by everyone, so far.
"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."
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