Mayor ordering 'full review' of incident involving by-law officer punching Black man in park
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson has publicly addressed the case of a city by-law officer punching a Black man while issuing a ticket in April.
Obi Ifedi told CTV News that back in early April, he was punched in the face by an Ottawa by-law officer who had been trying to give him a ticket for being one of several people in a Michele Heights park during a physical distancing crackdown amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I ended up across the street ... a by-law guy tackles me to the ground (and) punches me to the face,” he said.
Ottawa police told Ifedi by email they had investigated and confirmed the by-law officer assaulted him, but there would be no criminal charges. Instead, a pre-charge diversion would be ordered, which typically includes counselling or community service.
Ottawa By-Law & Regulatory Services is now conducting an internal review of the incident, after initially denying any wrongdoing by the officer.
In a memo to city councillors on Tuesday, General Manager of Emergency and Protective Services Anthony Di Monte confirmed there had been "a scuffle" between a by-law officer and a member of the public.
"[By-law and Regulatory Services] understands that Police Officers intervened with the individual, following which a foot chase ensued. The By-law Officer sought to assist the police and a scuffle occurred involving the individual and the By-law Officer. It was this scuffle and the use of personal force by the By-law Officer against the individual that subsequently resulted in an Ottawa Police investigation, which is the subject of an ongoing labour relations investigation," the memo said.
Di Monte did not name the individual in question, nor did he name the by-law officer. His memo said the individual who was asked to leave was "allegedly using the basketball court" and that he had told the officer "he was not aware of the park closure."
Di Monte said the by-law officer in question has been placed on administrative duties while the internal investigation proceeds.
In a tweet Tuesday, Watson said he and Councillor Jenna Sudds—chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee—had written to City Manager Steve Kanellakos to request a full review of the incident.
"In addition to the investigation undertaken by the Ottawa Police Service, Chair Sudds and I are formally requesting a full review of the specific incident from a labour relations perspective and any associated code of conduct violations and training requirements related to this type of interaction," the request said. "The situation with the by-law officer is serious, and needs to be addressed to provide Members of Council and the public with a clear understanding of the policies, procedures and training in place to prevent incidents of this nature from happening."
The mayor and councillor Sudds have asked Kanellakos to review the matter and report back to city council.
With files from CTV's Molly Thomas and Ben Cousins.