Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ottawa Police Service Launches Another Probe into Possible Excessive Use of Force

Amid details that use-of-force applications by the Ottawa Police went up 55 percent in in 2010 and as the Ottawa Police Service is still wading through the aftermath of the mistreatment of Stacy Bonds, another probe into the actions of Ottawa police officers is under way.

An internal probe has been launched into an incident that culminated in a police officer punching an Ottawa man several times while he lay on the ground during the early hours of the morning on January 29,2011 in the ByWard Market area of Ottawa.

While accounts differ about details leading up to the police take down and why the man was subdued, those interviewed seem to agree that the police appeared to use much more force than was necessary in the circumstances, particularly one officer’s decision to restrain the main by punching the man’s face and head.  This has caught the attention of Police Chief Vern White.

Though no public complaint has been filed, Chief White has launched an internal probe, or a “chief’s complaint” to the professional standards section of the Ottawa Police Service, to identify the officers involved and more fully investigate the circumstances for the arrests.

The video has emerged as the Ottawa Police Service recently tabled a report to the Police Services Board on the use of force by officers, which indicates that the use of physical force has tripled between 2009 and 2010. While the report suggests that increased training on transition between force and other options has contributed to a greater willingness to use alternative responses, the recent series of high profile incidents of violence have done little to reinforce the public’s confidence in their police force.

Chief White has vowed that a full investigation will be done into the matter, and that “in cases where an officer is found to be in violation of [their oath of office], discipline will be sought”.  It remains to be seen how this will impact community relations with the Ottawa Police Service and the use of force as the number of incidents continue to rise.

How do you think the Ottawa Police Service can regain public confidence?  How does this intersect with police accountability and/or training?

Posted by Jeremy Tatum (Windsor Law II)

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