It’s Pride Week in Saskatoon and all types of people are coming out to celebrate. That includes the Saskatoon Police Service. It may seem normal to see a police presence at pride parades and events, but our city’s LGBTQI2SA+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, 2-spirited, asexual, plus) says the SPS is there not just for security, but for support. The SPS gets it.
“The Saskatoon Police Service is taking on the initiative to make sure that we create an open and inclusive city and that the conversation keeps going,” says Danny Papadatos, co-chair of Saskatoon Pride Festival. Papadatos says the Service has had an open relationship over the years with Pride. He says the Police have worked hard for safety and inclusion in our community by understanding and supporting LGBTQ+ issues. This was shown through police actions following an incident with a transgender youth.
Krystal Nieckar works for OUTSaskatoon, an organization that supports and celebrates the LGBTQ+ Community. She witnessed the interaction between the trans-youth and police officer. The officer asked the youth what their legal name was, and then asked what their preferred name was. “It was really lovely to see Police addressing this person as an individual instead of just an incident,” Nieckar said. “They were valued as an individual. What happened was taken seriously, but they were also shown the respect that was deserved.”
These types of actions could be credited towards the SPS’s “Queer-101” education, a mandatory training that teaches Officers LGBTQ+ history, proper language and how to respectfully work with members of that community. Nieckar helps teach the course and is happy with how well-received the education is. “They have been awesome all the way through. They’re willing to learn and get involved and they’re respectful and they want what’s best for the community.”
Sgt. Matt Maloney is a former Cultural Resource Officer. He says the initial connection between the LGBTQ+ Community and Police was made through the Saskatoon Police Advisory Committee on Diversity. That’s where the understanding and education began and grew from there. “After that, to be quite honest, it was just showing up and listening and acting on what you say. The community needed a face and an ear, not just a uniform showing up. The community has been so stereotyped and marginalized within our own community they needed a conduit within the SPS. Over the last five years, I’d like to think, for our part as SPS, we have made incredible connections and inroads so that each individual is able to count on us, believe in us and trust us.” This was evident in past pride celebrations where the SPS Police Rescue Vehicle led the parade with the Pride flag draped across the hood. The SPS has participated in the parade since 2012.
“I know that other services throughout the country have had issues with their queer communities, and I don’t know that they’re working with their community the way SPS is,” Nieckar says. “SPS is doing good work understanding and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Pride parades began as marches protesting the injustices against sexual and gender diverse people. Today, SPS Cultural Resource Officer, Cst. Derek Chesney says things have changed a lot…for the better. “With a lot of work done by the LGBTQ+ community in making connections with allies, the Pride festival has now turned into a celebration of diversity and inclusion.” Cst. Chesney says he’s learned a great deal in the past few years working in his role with LGBTQ+ members. “Being involved in pride and building strong connections with the community has been a deeply rewarding and enriching experience. It has shown me that being inclusive has the utmost importance, and being accepting of all, regardless of our differences, makes our community stronger and stronger.”
During Pride events this year, some Officers will take part in the celebrations. Others will direct traffic and act as security. Papadatos says, “We just hope one day that the road blocks and bullet-proof vests won’t be needed,” and security will turn to celebration for everyone.
The Saskatoon Police Service continues to support all Pride events and stand by members of the LGBTQ+ Community.