OPP beef up resources for Pride event

Haldimand OPP will be better prepared this weekend for the third annual Pride Haldimand-Norfolk event in Dunnville.Earlier this month, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) issued a finding of “neglect of duty” against Insp. Phil Carter, commander of the Haldimand detachment, in connection with a protest at last year’s Pride event.The third annual event is Saturday. Const. Rodney Leclair, spokesperson for the Haldimand OPP, says the force will be ready if similar troubles arise this weekend.“We are aware of this upcoming event,” Leclair said in an email.“The primary role of the OPP would be to keep the peace and ensure public safety. In fulfilling this role, the OPP take a measured, professional approach that balances individual rights with the need to maintain public peace and order.”The OIPRD took Insp. Carter to task for not having resources in place to keep the peace and protect public safety at last year’s event.Organizers of the Pride event asked the Haldimand OPP, in advance, to stay away from Central Park in Dunnville.However, OIPRD director Sylvana Capogreco said in her report it was negligent for Insp. Carter to honour this request given that confrontations at Pride events are not uncommon.Anti-gay protesters attended the first Pride event in Dunnville in 2017. Last year, a dozen protesters turned up. They cited Bible verses opposing homosexuality and delivered graphic commentary about homosexual acts over military-grade bullhorns.“It was mostly individuals from out of town with a few locals,” Louise Jones, spokesperson for Pride Haldimand-Norfolk, said in an email.“I believe the leader was from Texas and they were claiming to be protesting on ‘religious beliefs.’ I believe they were all-purpose haters because – as you will read in the (OIPRD) report – it was a mixture of homophobia as well as racism expressed in their protest.”In her report, Capogreco says the intensity of last year’s protest and its potential for violence caught the Haldimand OPP flat-footed.Haldimand OPP – some of them off-duty – were scrambled to the park to deal with the confrontation, which occurred May 26. Officers were also called in from Norfolk, Brant and Niagara.“Objectively assessed, the reasonable action expected of an officer with the commensurate experience of Insp. Carter would be to appropriately notify and brief his officers about the event through a meeting or at least a detailed written correspondence,” Capogreco says in her report.“Insp. Carter’s failure to put proper measures in place was a clear breach of his duty to protect the safety of the public and other police officers under the Police Services Act and common law.“While there is no evidence indicating he intentionally failed to act in this case, (Carter) demonstrated a degree of neglect which would make the matter cross the line from a mere performance consideration to a matter of misconduct.”The complaint to the OIPRD was lodged by Joe DaRocha. In her report, Capogreco dismissed allegations that the attending officers were negligent in their handling of the event. Also dismissed was an allegation of “unnecessary exercise of authority” by an individual officer.Questions about next steps were shared with OPP West Region in London Thursday afternoon. Responses to questions about a possible follow-up investigation and whether Insp. Carter has an avenue of appeal were not received by press time.Pride Haldimand-Norfolk organizers will hold Saturday’s event at Lions Park in Dunnville. The event has been moved to this venue, in part, because the location allows for better crowd control and less likelihood that celebrants will clash with protesters.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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