London, Ont., police chief assesses officer’s conduct in arrest of trans activist at gunpoint

The London police chief says he will watch officers treat a popular online transgender activist they arrested at gunpoint last week after someone sent death threats to politicians in the southwestern Ontario city.

Clara Sorrenti, 28, who visits Keffals on Twitch, says officers came to her apartment on August 5, armed with large firearms, and called her by her birth name, which she hasn’t used in a decade. Officers also called Sorrenti the wrong sex, something she said was an attempt to mock her or take away her “power and dignity.”

“We recognize the distress this has caused Ms Sorrenti and we will look into the incident to understand how that could have happened,” chief Steve Williams said in a statement on Wednesday, a day after Sorrenti told her 42,000 social media followers about her. ordeal .

“London Police are committed to unbiased policing and treat all individuals with respect and dignity.”

Williams was not available for an interview, but he has cut his vacation short to address the incident, which has sparked outrage among the transgender community in Canada and the United States.

Sorrenti, known as Keffals on the online platform Twitch, says she was the victim of a beating. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Sorrenti believes she is the victim of slapping – a form of intimidation where someone calls a threat, resulting in armed officers being sent to someone else’s home or work.

“If something is reported, the police should take it seriously. They should investigate,” said former London police chief Murray Faulkner, who now speaks on police matters. “It’s one of those Catch-22 situations. If they didn’t go and something had happened, boy oh boy.”

The head of the London Police Services Board, which oversees the department, called the incident and the use of the wrong gender and name “extremely concerning.”

“Using a proper name goes to the dignity and respect that the chief mentions in his statement,” said chair Susan Toth, who is also a human rights lawyer. “It is critical that everyone who has contact with the police is treated with dignity and respect.”

Toronto Police Also Involved

London police say they were approached on August 5 by City Hall officials about violent threats, and launched an investigation that resulted in Sorrenti’s arrest and the seizure of electronic devices. Police detained her for 11 hours, Sorrenti said.

Five days later, on Wednesday, she was able to pick up those electronics at the police station.

Sorrenti said someone used her former name and address to send the threats to London councilors, while also confessing to a murder.

The Toronto Police Department was also aware of emails sent to officials in that city on July 31. Sorrenti was contacted by Toronto officers and she said they had recorded the threats of an attempted swat incident. The Toronto police investigation remains open.

London, Ont., police chief assesses officer's conduct in arrest of trans activist at gunpoint
London Police Chief Steve Williams, announcing a review of officers’ conduct in Sorrenti’s arrest, said the agency “is committed to unbiased policing and treats all individuals with respect and dignity”. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

Sorrenti said her brother called London police in March to warn them that she could be the target of online trolls because of her high-profile social media presence.

On Twitch, where people can broadcast themselves playing video games, Keffals talks about US anti-trans law and transgender rights. Sorrenti changed when she was a teenager. She was recently profiled in the Washington Post.

Williams said police officers are working closely with London’s LGBT2QSIA community.

“We recognize that despite our best efforts, sometimes we fall short and in those situations we learn, we teach and we do better.”

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