One of the Barrie police department's top officers has been nominated for her work in bringing awareness, education and equity to law enforcement.
Staff Sgt. Linda Moorhouse, who started her career with the Barrie Police Service in 1994, has been nominated for the Serving with Pride 2SLGBTQ+ Visibility Award. The honour is presented annually to an Ontario police officer, corrections officer or other law enforcement or criminal justice official, civilian or uniformed, who are “out” and identify as 2SLGBTQ+.
Nominees are considered to be inspirational individuals within law enforcement who work tirelessly to build positive relationships and trust within their respective organization, law enforcement community and the public, as well as support and raise the profile of the 2SLGBTQ+ community within the law enforcement, corrections or criminal justice sector.
After working as a journalist for two local news publications Moorhouse said she felt there was a similarity between the two professions.
“You spend a good part of your day talking and listening to people (and) trying to get to the truth of the matter," she told BarrieToday. "You never know what you’re going to be doing day-to-day… and those were all things I really enjoyed about journalism. I found all those skills were applicable to policing.”
Moorhouse said she was honoured when she learned of the nomination. As a member of Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Equity Diversity & Inclusion (OACP EDI) committee since 2014 before becoming vice-chair in 2020, she has assisted in establishing 2SLGBTQ+ training for all current and new members of the Barrie Police Service through the Gilbert Centre. Through those efforts, the local police department is part of the Safer Spaces Network of businesses and organizations in Simcoe County.
In 2018, she launched the Barrie police EDI committee, where volunteer members continually work toward and promote having a permanent diversity and inclusion position established at the local police force.
While the veteran officer prefers to keep her work and private lives separate, the two do tend to intersect on occasion, Moorhouse acknowledged, adding she and her wife — who is an OPP officer — have been married for 11 years and together for 17.
As she began to get involved with different groups in the community, including the LGBTQ+ community, Moorhouse realized there weren’t many people championing their cause, speaking up or being proactive in trying to enhance the partnerships and relationships between the police service and that community.
“Sometimes you have to bring a personal side into the equation to make it more impactful and that’s what I decided to do," Moorhouse said. "I just put that out there a little bit more and was more willing to engage with people and talk about the community... and try to challenge some of the issues that have occurred between police and the gay community.”
The response from both her Barrie police colleagues and the community has been overwhelmingly positive, she told BarrieToday.
“One of the things that I am really happy about is we have been invited a number of times to march in uniform at the Barrie Pride Parade. I think that’s due, in large part, to the good relationships we’ve built," Moorhouse said. "There are some police services that are invited to march, but not in uniform.
"For me, that’s a real win and a real checkmark from the community that we are moving in the right direction and that we are trying to be supportive and understanding," she added.
That support and understanding goes both ways, Moorhouse said. Through building these positive relationships, she also hopes the community becomes a bit more understanding of police, their position and what they are trying to do.
“There’s a history to the relationship between the police and the gay community. A lot of police officers today are probably too young to even know why that is, but we need to understand where things were in order to move forward," she said. "It’s important they learn a little bit about that history and it’s important to know the terminology, know what’s acceptable and what is not acceptable.”
Individuals in the gay community face challenges that a straight white male or straight white female does not, Moorhouse said, adding it’s important to provide education around what some of those pieces are in order for all officers to be able to do their jobs properly.
“We don’t want to be offensive to anybody and we want to be empathetic and understand where people are coming from when they’re talking to us about their issues," she said.
Whether it’s dealing with police or choosing a career in law enforcement, it all comes down to support, Moorhouse said, adding traditionally, there haven’t been a lot of gay people who have chosen policing as a career.
“In the past, it was probably difficult for them to be accepted in this profession, but times… and attitudes are changing and there is more broad acceptance," she said. "It’s good for people in the community to have others they can identify with.
"I wasn’t always part of the 2SLGTBQ+ community and I think that gives me some perspective on viewpoints. I didn’t change as a person, but there was change in my life.”
It can be challenging for people to be their authentic selves, she added, particularly in environments that have a history or reputation of non-acceptance.
“If I am able to help people overcome those challenges or encourage people to be more open-minded, then it is all worthwhile. I don’t expect anyone to change who they are — just to be more accepting that everyone is different, whether it’s their race, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation, or belief system.”A virtual awards gala is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 16.