• By: Dan Donovan

Ottawa Police Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Photo credit: Perth Photography via flickr

In early May, the Ottawa Police were called to Tillbury Park on Sherbourne Road to break up a fight between students from Notre Dame High School and nearby Nepean High School. The fight, which involved more than 40 youth, was captured on video and posted on social media showing several students punching and kicking each other at the park before police intervened.

One of the videos shows a 15-year-old youth confronting one of the police officers, forcing him to get physical and eventually detain and arrest the boy. The constable, who has over 15-years of experience on the force, made the right call given the circumstances. Unfortunately, the parents of the 15-year-old are complaining that their son did nothing wrong and was “defending himself”. They claim he was not involved in the incident, yet the video on social media shows him confronting and getting physical with the policeman. The parents say their son is not a criminal. They are correct. He is not. But, he is being rude and breaking the law by confronting police.

Had the boy just listened to the policeman, this would have ended differently. The boy’s aunt told CBC news that, “He reacted out of fear and had nothing to do with the fight. He's a minor. He's 15 years old. That officer had no right to question him and put his hands on him.” She is wrong. The officer had every right in that circumstance to protect himself and arrest the boy. These parents have not schooled their children in what is an appropriate way to speak to the police. The boy’s family are South Sudan immigrants who came to Canada 14 years ago. The boy’s father doesn't deny that the teen was rude to the officer, but says his son was upset at being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He does not seem to hold his son to account for being physical with the policeman. All parents should teach their children that in a similar situation they should be cooperative and then walk away. They should not treat police like the enemy or outliers. Unfortunately, the police in Ottawa are seen by many, especially those in minority communities, as brutish adversaries who are not to be trusted.

Much of this is due to problems with the Ottawa Police and police misconduct. There have been over 70 Ottawa Police charged with criminal offences in the past six years and not one has been fired. Ottawa Police Services Board Chair, Diane Deans, has proven to be completely out of her depth in her role of police oversight. Written requests to her office for information on police misconduct and settlements paid by the Ottawa Police Services annually to victims of police misconduct and for legal fees related to those cases are routinely ignored. Deans is not running the OPS — they are running her.

Then, there is the case of Constable Daniel Montsion, on trial for manslaughter in the July 2015 death of Somali-Canadian, Abdirahman Abdi. The Ottawa Police Association (OPA) President, Matt Skof, has vocally defended Montsion since the day of the incident — even before the facts were known.

Skof and the OPA were behind a campaign to raise funds for Montsion by encouraging Ottawa Police to buy and wear racist bracelets showing support for Montsion after he was criminally charged with manslaughter in Abdirahman’s death. The bracelet campaign was a large and loud FU to the citizens and criminal justice system the Ottawa Police are supposed to serve. It was a statement saying the Ottawa Police are above the law.

In January, the Ontario Provincial Police charged Matt Skof with breach of trust and obstructing justice under the Criminal Code of Canada in a separate matter. Skof did not feel the need to step down or resign. Instead, in a display of exceptional arrogance, Skof showed up as the official OPA rep, hand-in-hand with his fellow criminally charged friend, Constable Montsion, as Montsion’s criminal trial began.

Now an Ottawa police constable with 15-years service who was in a dangerous situation, and whose actions were entirely appropriate, is being criticized for his actions. His main defender is the criminally charged President of the OPA — a union that has soured relations so badly within the minority community that the police have lost their greatest asset with Ottawa citizens the benefit of the doubt.

The teen’s family have asked for support from the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition. Coalition spokesperson Dahabo Ahmed Omer said this incident shows Ottawa police have not learned any lessons from Abdi’s death.

You reap what you sow.