The need to increase communication and build trust between police and the Downtown Eastside (DTES) community is at the forefront of this morning’s panel of witnesses at the Missing Women’s Inquiry.
Maggie de Vries, Jamie Lee Hamilton and Wayne Leng told the Commission they feel the lack of communication between the police and DTES agencies – such as Hamilton’s safe house “Grandma’s Place” – kept sex trade workers uninformed and vulnerable to Robert Pickton.
Hamilton and de Vries say that police charged with protecting sex workers need to engage more fully with the activists and workers who have the trust of the community.
“Community workers can give the police a holistic view to the individuals lives on the street, and that process would have helped humanize the individual rather than seeing [them] as a person just in trouble with the law,” says Hamilton.
All three witnesses agree that increased interaction can give survival sex workers the tools to protect themselves in the future. When asked by Commissioner Wally Oppal what steps should be taken by the police, Hamilton stressed that a proactive policy needs to be implemented, with police “getting out of their cars to walk around and meet the community and inquire about the well-being” of survival sex trade workers.
Hamilton stated that at the end of the day, the police and the DTES community need to move forward, work together, and ensure that this never happens again.
Reported by Virginia McConchie
Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - http://www.missingwomeninquiry.ca/