September 26, 1997

Mark Tonner
Out of the Blue, The Province

Dear Mark,

I see you haven't risen to the debate! I just wanted to send another letter so that you didn't get completely the wrong idea of where I am coming from.

I am not anti-police. I am anti-corruption, (as should be any good cop). I've had an intimate friendship with a police officer, who had to break up brawls at places like the Ivanho (or the Brunswick House in Toronto); having to enter places on a call where there's a pulled gun. (Once it was a gay bar, and his partner (who had no idea, of course) said "No need to rush there, let's get a coffee.") Not a job I would want, that's for sure. He was a good man, a real mench.

What I was trying to demonstrate with my previous letter was a bit of how it feels to have your profession sullied by the actions of a few who fill the stereotypes. I cannot rightly call all police officers corrupt, because there is evidence of a few. Neither can you base your opinions about prostitutes on the lives of the poor, drug dependent and desperate. Your joke about skills-training offends me because that is exactly the kind of programs we need to make the working conditions for sex work healthier and safer.

Keeping prostitution a crime deters any chance for establishing trust between sex workers and police. But at some point that trust going to have to be gained. Given the level of violence that prostitutes are faced with, and the number of unsolved murders, prostitutes are going to have to liaison with a sexual assault unit, homocide, and violent crimes. The results in Toronto have been phenomenal.

Maggie's (a prostitute-run resource centre, the Toronto Prostitutes' Community Service Project) and the Sex Workers' Alliance of Toronto began establishing a relationship with the sexual assault unit in 1992. It was mostly the work Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto that Steven Hassan Jarrar was arrested (and convicted) in the near-death beating (in a coma with broken legs) of Dana. It had a lot to do with the work of prostitutes that Marcello de Palma was arrested so quickly following the the triple execution-style murder of three prostitutes there. The prostitute/police relations were crucial.

These relations are never easy, they are like having to deal. Anastasia Kuzyk of SWAT demands information. "Don't keep anything from us. We need to know. Or else no deal." Then she beats the streets, puts up posters, gives out hand-outs and does press.

Police and prostitutes both have to be mature and realize that we are not always on the same side and we have to work together. Given the need to build this liaison, it's not appropriate for you as a police officer to insult prostitutes just because you happen to have a forum in a province-wide popular daily.

I want you to know too, that while I do have large collections of clippings on misconduct and miscarriage of justice, there is very little of it about the Vancouver Police Department. It is certainly not apparent like it was (and perhaps still is) in Toronto (where I used to live).


Andrew Sorfleet
Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver

Ken Doern, Vice Unit

Ms. Beth Nielsen, Executive Assistant
Vancouver Police Board

312 Main Street
Vancouver, B.C.
V6A 2T2


Tonner's response... [SWAV Letters] [Rights Groups]

Created: October 3, 1997
Last modified: June 17, 1999
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710