The police and the gay community have had a conflicted past across North America for most of the 20th Century. We see this former reality resonating in 2016 as the LGBTQ community debated how police participated in Pride Parades across Canada.
Locally, the Calgary Police have been in the news due to a recently released, unflattering, 2013 internal audit of workplace culture. The Police are one of many state institutions that are grappling with societal change, and increasingly, with reconciliation for prior stigmatization of the LGBTQ community.
A positive development, amidst this troubling news, is that the Calgary Police archives staff have been assisting the Calgary Gay History Project: combing through files looking for references to their relationship with the LGBTQ community in previous decades. The material is far from flattering.
In May 1946, Constable F.C. Shipley was awarded an entry in the merit book and an accelerated promotion due to catching Alfred V. Andrew in an act of gross indecency with another man at the Alexandra Hotel. Andrew subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months hard labour.
In November 1960, the Calgary Police fired one of their own employees, Charles Pippard, because, “it would appear that Pippard suffers from homosexual tendencies, but nothing can be uncovered to confirm this.”
And in Sept 1963, an editorial in the Police’s internal magazine, Patrol, gleefully announced:
Hats off to those members of the Detective Division whose resourceful and perseverance, coupled with a new and revolutionary scientific aid to criminal investigations, closed circuit television, were successful in exposing and subsequently convicting a group of men practicing acts of gross indecency in a public washroom.
The hue and cry that heralded the use of these so called ‘Big Brother tactis’ [sic] by the force, displayed as usual a lack of awareness and understanding of this dangerous trend which prompted the use of this device.
Homosexuality and the perversion it breeds is a social problem that is always with is. When, however, such perverts meet and practice various acts of indecency in any place to which the public have access, then there is no other course open to the Police than to use every means at their disposal to safeguard innocent citizens from this type of environment and ensure that these establishments are protected from such defilement.
It is unfortunate that to gain the evidence required to subject several innocent and unsuspecting citizens using the toilets in question, to the scrutiny of television cameras while engaged in a most fundamental act of nature. That, it has been claimed, was a gross invasion of privacy. Surely we are not such prudes that in the interests of public decency and morality, we cannot accept a little humiliation of this kind and in doing so perhaps prevent a child or young person from becoming the victim of the insatiable lust of some of these mentally sick individuals.
It is important that society-at-large comes to terms with our LGBTQ past, and stares at it unflinchingly, to prepare a space for reconciliation. I thank the Calgary Police for opening up its history to the Project and allowing itself to be stared at.