Mark Randall said 20 years ago, he would have never envisioned this day coming to fruition.
The Calgary police once again acknowledged the pain caused by a 2002 raid at a city bathhouse, marking the 20th anniversary. They also agreed to remove some of the affected men’s fingerprints and photos, still in Calgary police files, removed from the database.
On Dec. 12, 2002, Calgary police legally executed a search warrant at Goliath’s Bathhouse after community complaints led to a police investigation. The raid followed an eight-month undercover operation that later saw 18 men arrested on bawdy house charges.
Randall, who had worked at Goliath’s up until two weeks prior to the raid, now sits on the Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) Advisory Board. He said Monday was both a historic and traumatic day in Calgary’s queer history.
“The significance and subsequent impacts of the CPS raid cannot be understated or discarded,” Randall said.
“The raids directly impacted innocent men, business owners and staff of the business, with charges and media following up with outing them to full public scrutiny and in some cases, outing folks to family members who had no idea about their sexuality or their orientation.
“This was devastating.”
Randall said the raid also fractured Calgary’s gay community. He said many who should have been standing as outraged snubbed others as attending “that place.”
“The worst, however, was that a place believed and felt to be a safe place had been raided with full force, power, multiple city services that were without question above and beyond what was needed based on the undercover investigative premise presented for the raid,” he said.
Randall also said CPS sidestepped their own GSD liaison member who had cultivated a trusting relationship with the community.
Marking the 20 years
Back in 2018, the Calgary Police Service issued a formal apology to Calgary’s LGBTQ2S+ community. They said the event was one that is regularly singled out by the community as a negative experience with Calgary police.
While the Calgary police said they stand by the investigation, it would be handled with the community in a much different way today.
On Monday, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld and members of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Advisory Board acknowledged the raid.
“Acknowledging the role our Service has played in causing trauma to Calgarians with diverse gender identities, gender expressions and sexual orientations is a way to demonstrate to the community that we have evolved as an organization and that we are listening to the concerns they have raised – even those concerns that are based on past experiences,” he said.
Randall said that two decades on, that negative sentiment remains entrenched. He said it’s an extremely hard relationship to repair.
When CPS reached out to GSD board members to mark the 20 years, there was some trepidation. There was worry about re-traumatizing members of the community by reopening the incident. Still, they moved ahead cautiously, engaging with members of the community.
“What has followed is nothing short of amazing, in my eye,” Randall said.
“Today is just another step towards building a relationship of trust and respect by acknowledging the past, learning from this past and working towards building an inclusive, respectful and safe community for all.”