Police chief announces charge in racist meme investigation; addresses unrest in U.S.
OTTAWA -- Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly says an officer has been charged under the Police Services Act as part of the investigation into a racist meme that was circulating within the Ottawa Police Service.
In a lengthy statement, Sloly reaffirmed his commitment to improving policing in Ottawa and stamping out workplace harassment and sexual harassment and violence within the force.
Deputy police chief Uday Jaswal is facing allegations of sexual harassment and has been suspended since March. None of the allegations against Jaswal have been tested in court.
The meme in question surfaced in late April. It targeted several racialized members of the service, Sloly said. He called it disgusting and unacceptable.
In his statement Monday, Sloly said an officer had been identified and charged in relation to the creation and distribution of the image.
Sloly, however, addressed another issue, and that is an alleged leak that brought the meme investigation to the media.
"[T]here was a significant leak of highly confidential and sensitive information from this investigation to the media. This further victimized the people depicted in the memes along with their families and it victimized additional OPS members and their families," Sloly said. "It further damaged the OPS reputation and it further undermined the trust and confidence that the public has in the OPS."
Sloly said he has launched an administrative investigation into leaks within the police service.
The chief also said every member of the police force, himself included, will be taking part in a training and awareness initiative over the next 12 months.
"It was clear that relevant policies, training, procedures and practices were insufficient to prevent and manage this," he said. "Fixing our house and making our family members healthy and safe has been and will continue to be my number one priority."
Unrest in U.S. felt here, too
Sloly also addressed the ongoing unrest in the United States, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"The unfolding events in Minneapolis and across the USA are impacting communities and police services in Canada and right here in Ottawa," Sloly said. "It is impacting members of our local Black community including our own Black members. It is impacting communities across the spectrum and it is impacting every member of the OPS in some way. It has impacted me deeply as well."
Sloly said he been reaching out to Ottawa police members, local community leaders, and police services and community groups abroad.
"I join with the many other police, justice and community leaders to express sorrow for the Floyd family for their loss. I join the chorus of those calling for immediate action within the justice system and in all institutions and all social spheres to change the circumstances that underpin such tragic incidents," he said.
Sloly said he would, over his tenure as chief, devote money, people, and time to solving the issues within the force and restoring public trust.
"We must all be much more knowledgeable and aware of how these acts manifest in the workplace - whether they be carried out as micro aggressions, bullying, mobbing, reprisals along with a variety of mean-spirited memes, unethical media leaks and all other related acts of omission and commission. These are all examples of painful acts that negatively impact our members as well as the public's trust in our Service.
"We can do this but only if we do it together," he said.