• By: Tori McNeely

Public perceptions surrounding Abdirahman Abdi’s fatal encounter with Ottawa Police

Constable Daniel Montsion’s judge-only trial for the death of Abdirahman Abdi resumes today after being postponed just three days in due to a “doctored” surveillance video.

The Ottawa police officer was charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon following a fatal altercation with 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi outside his Hintonburg apartment in July 2016.

Montsion pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

With the trial underway, details of the case are not the only thing resurfacing. Comments from the public on major are exposing a deep mistrust in the Ottawa Police and in government oversight of the force.

Carleton University students enrolled in SOCI 3410 are but one sample of a much larger population feeling this way.

SOCI 3410 explores all aspects of policing and examines topics such as training, use of force, police discretion and police accountability by examining actual case studies involving police.

At the outset of the trial, Criminology Professor Darryl Davies instructed his students to read “Fake News, Real Death!”, an article examining the facts of the Abdirahman case, and to leave a comment as it relates to their class.

“As a professor, I am very excited that my students are speaking out about the issues raised in the article,” said Davies. “I am delighted that they are taking up the gauntlet and letting people know in a very public way that they have a voice when it comes to policing and the justice system. I have been impressed by their comments and the eloquent manner in which they have made their views known. Now they are no longer just passers by watching from the sidelines because they are directly engaged in the process.”

Davies thought that by launching this initiative he would be able to get some insight into their views and perspectives. Here is what the students had to say:

“…Until everyone faces accountability for their actions, police or civilian, these pointless deaths will continue.Mr. Montsion acted as the judge, jury and executioner that day, deciding from the moment that he jumped out of his car that the only way to subdue Mr. Abdi was to beat him to death with reinforced gloves.It’s time to say enough, enough with the thin blue line, enough with your rubber bracelets supporting an accused police officer, and enough with the us against them mentality….Mr. Abdi deserves justice, his family deserves justice and Canada deserves justice. We cannot standby and allow another wrongful death committed by those sworn to protect receive no justice. Canada needs accountability.”

— Chantel

“Cases such as this one always make me question why there isn't an overarching commission mandating police conduct. If we can report bad physicians to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to have their conduct reviewed and potentially have their practice taken away, why don't we have similar procedures for bad cops?”

— Katlyn

“I can't begin to imagine what this family is going through right now. Our justice system has failed Abdi and his family. We can only hope that this officer is held accountable for his unreasonable actions.”

— Julia

“Truly a heartbreaking story…It seems that some officers believe there is no limit to what they can do to good hard working citizens. I hope measures are placed to support victims who have been treated like Abdirahman Abdi. This whole story disheartens the criminal justice system, hopefully we put an end to this soon.”

— Rafael

“I think it is ridiculous that officers are still able to get away with senseless murders. They are still not being held accountable for their actions and that needs to change. It is absurd to think that the officer is the victim, in this case, the victim is Mr. Abdi and he does deserve justice. It is, however, a disgrace that the court date is 3 years following the murder, this is more than unfair and not just when considering everything that Mr. Abdi and his family have gone through.”

— Liz

“Disappointed, but not surprised. I think any reasonable person knows that the officer on trial used unreasonable force in this incident…”

 — Shaelyn

“A heart attack seems to be a poor excuse for the kind of injustice that has been witnessed here. Not only this but the criminal justice system that claims to pride itself on timely and speedy trials is yet again buying time to make up for another mistake.”

— Mathew

“I think it is clear that Mr. Abdi was the true victim in this case, not Officer Montsion….Montsion must be held accountable for his immoral and outright illegal actions. If he "gets off the hook", this will only set an undesirable precedence for further occurrences of police brutality that reach this extent within Canada.”

— Bradyn

“Wow, Just wow. To think, an assault resulting in death, caught on camera could even be argued as "not guilty" is baffling…The prolonged use of force far exceeded the need…Officers must stop acting like they are above the law, it is putting to shame those who actually care for the community and are able to de-escalate without violence and death of a citizen.”

— Rebekah

“Perhaps it is not the “egotistical lawyer” that is an issue as that is his job is to win his case for his client. Perhaps, it is those people who allow such lawyer to go to such lengths for describing and rationalizing a crime. Our system lacks accountability. A vicious cycle, you allown 1 police officer to get off, you’re setting precedent for the rest. Perhaps it’s time our government starts appointing judges with some common sense, as common sense is not so common after all these days.”

— Sierra

“The death of Mr. Abdi is a textbook definition of unreasonable use of force, not to mention a violation of his s. 7 Charter right of life, liberty, and security of the person.”

— Luca

“With all these use of force incidents, the police have faced a lack of accountability. Montsion has done something abhorrent and he needs to face the consequences. This case needs to be made an example for other officers to show that what you do has real life implications and you will be punished.”

— Lauren

“The way in which the police came out in support of Montsion in this case acting as if he were the true victim is morally reprehensible.”

— Grace

“This case is horrific, to say the least, but I'm not surprised. Until the society makes it known that conduct similar to that of Constable Daniel Montsion is not acceptable things will not change. At this point, I feel like the only way to decrease the use of violence by police is for the courts to find him guilty for all charges. Of course, this probably won't happen, but it would make the point that needed to bring reform to our system. A system that is supposed to be there to protect its citizens!!”

— Victoria

“Common issue with police inadequacy when dealing with someone who has a mental illness. Escalating the situation as soon as they arrive on scene and then resorting to violence is not the way to handle someone who might of been having a mental episode and was ultimately running away posing little to no threat.”

— Troy

These comments are representative of what the city as a whole wants and expects: a justice system that operates fairly and impartially for everyone. And the police are no exception.