death raises questions about law enforcement's role to
serve and protect
By Fred Sherwin
death of Abdirahman Abdi at the hands of two members of
the Ottawa Police Service outside his apartment building
in Hintonburg last month has thrust the city full bore
into the ongoing debate over how people of colour are
treated by law enforement in cities across North America.
seems you cant watch the news or read a newspaper
without seeing a story about a black man being killed
at the hands of those who are supposed to serve and protect.
police officers take an oath they are sworn to serve and
protect the community, not just the white community, or
the affluent community, or the community of fellow police
officers, but the entire community rich, poor,
black, white, Muslim, Christian, male, female, gay, straight,
crimnal suspect and crime victim alike.
the impression that incidents like Abdis death,
or the high profile deaths of individuals like Freddie
Gray, Michael Brown, Paul ONeal and Philando Castile
give is that the police are more interested in serving
and protecting themselves than the people they are supposed
to be serving and protecting.
while some would argue that the police are serving and
protecting the general public by ensuring their safety
against the criminal element who might otherwise do them
harm, whos to judge whos a member of the public
and whos a criminal, and to what extent should they
be ensuring the publics protection. Surely not to
the extent of utilizing sufficient physical force to kill
a man, especially if the man in question is mentally ill
will likely never get to the bottom of why Abdirahman
Abdi had to die outside his apparent building on a brilliant
July morning for no apparent reason other than failing
to obey a police order. And the officers responsible will
get off scotfree with no lessons learned from the incident
like so many other police officers before them.
Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, formed after his death,
has put forward 10 recommendations aimed at addressing
how police treat racial minorities and the mentally ill
in this city. The Ottawa Police Service has taken the
recommendations under advisement, meaning theyll
adopt the ones that are already in place and ignore
a police force to be effective in a community, they must
first be respected. Incidents like the Abdirahman case
severely erodes that respect, if it exists at all.
initial response to Abdirahmans death has been a
kneejerk reaction to support the police officers. Such
a reaction is not only counter-productive but destructive
in that is serves to further erode what little respect
people of colour and minorities have towards the police.
also shows complete disrespect and disregard for the victim,
his family, and by extension, the community at large.
We can and must do better.
10:30 a.m., Aug. 18)
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