Bathhouse Visit a MessageBut From Whom?
September 21, 2000
Metropolitan United Church throws a cocktail party in the church basement for retired
moderators of the United Church of Canada. Five plainclothes Toronto cops sashay in and
start asking pointed questions.
Its hardly likely any guests would holler "Its a raid!" but why
would the police roust the joint?
1) If the church wants to lash the sherry around, it needs a special occasion permit
from the liquor authorities, and the police "routinely" checks to see everything
complies with these permits. 2) Maybe they "received a complaint." Maybe from an
"anonymous" tipster. 3) They might have reasons they dont care to divulge,
but it doesnt matter, the first two give them all the excuses they need.
Last Friday, an hour or so after midnight, at least five male officers in plainclothes
rousted 300 lesbians attending a party at a bathhouse called Club Toronto. Justifications
for the raid vary; different senior officers have offered both No. 1 and No. 2. But since
there hasnt been a bathhouse raid in 20 years, No. 3 begins to sound like an
Especially when you consider that they were disrupting a major homosexual fandango two
days before a meeting at which that "community" was to form a liaison committee
with the police, something the police department itself had initiated to keep exactly this
sort of mess from boiling up, and boiling over.
It looks as if the raid was a message. But who was sending it, and who was supposed to
It could be it was entirely the work of "cowboys," or "renegades,"
as police spin-doctors spun things, and that headquarters had no idea what was going on.
It could be. But what do you suppose the cowboys thought they would get out of it?
Grief, or pats on the head?
Julian Fantino arrived with a reputation for bungling relations with gays and lesbians
in his previous job, as chief in London. He has gone to extraordinary lengths to open
diplomatic channels in Toronto, even hosting a boozy reception to kick off Pride Week.
But maintaining diplomatic relations with his own troops is the first order of
business, and it would be a dim chief who didnt realize that a great many of his
subordinates arent enthusiastic about getting kissy-kissy with queers.
Cops down the line have a fair amount of autonomy. No senior officer necessarily has to
say, "Harass those fag chicks." But the ranks may sense vibes, as if from on
high, that harassing fag chicks would not be entirely frowned on. That, despite the public
love-feast, it wouldnt hurt to remind the fag chicks, and every other kind of fag,
and the public at large, and, most important, the rest of the cops in the department, that
perverts cant expect special treatment.
On the other hand, it could be the message was sent up the line.
The old-guard, old-boy, white, hetero cops would like to take this opportunity to
remind the chief not to push his luck.
Even more than they dont like homos, they dont like the feeling that
policing in Toronto is all about Julian Fantino. And Fantinos sensational gift for
self-promotion, and the way the media spread his words and photo-ops like jam, can easily
leave the ranks with the feeling that their only job is to make him look good.
So anything as apparently cynical as a crusade to become the chief who turned Toronto
into one big ever-loving family naturally invites sand in its gearbox.
If the chief had earned any credit in the gay community, and among mushy liberals, the
cowboys blasted it to smithereens.
Bringing us to hats. Its almost impossible to find a cop on the street wearing
the official-issue uniform cap. Instead, its baseball caps. In the gush of
interviews he gave before becoming chief, Fantino said hed put an end to that. Just
When Fantino arrived, it was widely assumed that he and the head of the police union,
Craig Bromell, were made for each other. This magazine described the chief as being
against letting civilians investigate police misdeeds, "and a union bosss
dream." Except, when you put two bulls in a field theres only one thing they
want to establish.
Baseball caps are powerfully symbolic. A few years back, denied the right to strike or
even work to rule, cops wore them to flip management the finger.
If Bromell put the word around that baseball caps were out of line, how long would it
take for every last one to disappear?
Its possible the vibes that made the lesbian bathhouse raid seem like a terrific
idea came, not from police command, but from the police union, whose boss, the would-be
Operation True Blue freebooter, hasnt forgotten that it was Fantino who put the
official kibosh on his plan to take over the world.
- Slingers column usually
appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
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