Ottawa police apologize after 911 call where white woman reports Black man in a park
OTTAWA -- Ottawa police have apologized for how they handled an incident where a white woman called 911 on a Black man in a park, leading the operator to tell the man he's intimidating the woman.
The incident was posted on Twitter and shows a woman walking by a lone man while describing him on the phone to a 911 operator.
The man who posted the video said it was taken by his brother, 21-year-old Ntwali Bashizi, and said the woman called police because his brother wasn't two metres away from her while they crossed a bridge.
"I do believe it was racialized - there was no reason to stop me," Bashizi told CTV News on Friday. "Even if I got off the bridge, we would have been the same distance."
In the video, the woman turns the call on to speakerphone and the operator talks directly to the Bashizi to tell him he's intimidating the woman.
“Sir... do we really need to send a police officer just for you let this girl by?" the operator asks.
"I'm not stopping her from coming by," Bashizi said before being interrupted.
"You're intimidating her, sir, okay, can you just stand to the side," the operator says, as he replies that he's already standing to the side.
Bashizi remains at a distance from the woman throughout the video and she eventually walks away while still on the phone.
He said he started recording the interaction when the woman started taking photos of him with her phone. His full video of the entire interaction is about nine minutes long, he said.
"How do I sound intimidating?" he told CTV News Ottawa. "I'm not doing anything. She approached me. She actually could have left me alone and I wouldn't have said anything to her."
Ottawa Police say they are fully reviewing the incident and have offered Bashizi a full apology.
"At this point it is clear that this was not an appropriate use of the 911 system and the Service did not act appropriately in handling the call," police said on Twitter.
CTV News has not been able to identify the woman in the video.
The man's lawyer, Michael Spratt, told Newstalk 580 CFRA that the incident is an example of "the weaponization of 911."
"This is exactly the type of situation that can lead to dangerous and deadly encounters with the police that disproportionately impact racialized individuals and Black men," he said.
Ottawa Police Acting Deputy Chief Mark Ford said the incident was a misuse of the 911 system. He said the woman mentioned the man's race twice on the phone call. The police force is reviewing whether it should have sent officers to the scene, he said.
“We’ve got to make sure that we fully understand and appreciate both sides of the story when we’re delaing with a dispute like this," Ford told Newstalk 580 CFRA. Police are planning to speak with all parties, he added.
Police said no charges have been applied related to the incident at this time. Ford said it's premature to ask whether the 911 operator will be disciplined.
The incident comes months after a video in New York's Central Park showed a white woman calling police after a Black man requested she leash her dog.
In that video, she told the man that she'd call police and tell them he was threatening her.
She then called police and told the operator that the man was threatening as he stood at a distance from her.
The woman, who was since identified as Amy Cooper, has been charged with filing a false police report and was fired from her job over the May incident.
Cooper has since apologized and said she reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about the man's intentions.
- With files from Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.