EDMONTON -- People detained by Edmonton police will no longer be forced to identify as male or female.

The change is one of several the city force is making to improve its relationship with the LGBTQ2S+ community.

Edmonton Police Service also created a new position dedicated to liaising between the force and the local queer community during parades, protests and other public gatherings.

In an update on EPS' reconciliation initiative, Chief Dale McFee said the liaison job has been filled and represented a change from the force's previous methods of community engagement.

"Relationships are based on trust, and you don't go in and impose trust. You build trust."

Part of the trust-building, McFee said, is respecting when police presence is wanted at public events.

The chief said he would "absolutely" participate in a pride – but only if invited.

"I'm not going to invite myself to the pride parade, and I'm not going to be there in a non-committed way to just look like it's a photo op."

The reconciliation initiative was launched in May 2019 when McFee apologized to the LGBTQ2S+ community on behalf of EPS. The consultation process included interviews, focus groups, online surveys and social media engagement.

After hearing the feedback, EPS says it will give new members a LGBTQ2S+ Recruit Training Module as part of their inclusivity and bias awareness training.

It will be mandatory for all members and will include input from the queer community. McFee said it was to be determined whether existing officers would receive the new training as well.  

"But it will be very clear what the expectations are," McFee said. "If we cross lines, then there needs to be accountability."

According to EPS, other long-term strategies will be implemented over the next 12 months.

"We're not going to be perfect. Let's be clear on that. We're going to make some mistakes along the way.

"But I can assure you, as chief of police, this will remain a priority."