Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, Jan. 20


Posted Jan. 10

Posted Jan. 9

Posted Jan. 7


Orléans Ward
Matt Luloff

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney






Abdilraham's death raises questions about law enforcement's role to serve and protect

By Fred Sherwin

The 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.

It seems you can’t 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.

When 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.

Unfortunately, the impression that incidents like Abdi’s death, or the high profile deaths of individuals like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Paul O’Neal 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.

And 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, who’s to judge who’s a member of the public and who’s a criminal, and to what extent should they be ensuring the public’s protection. Surely not to the extent of utilizing sufficient physical force to kill a man, especially if the man in question is mentally ill and unarmed.

We 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.

The 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 they’ll adopt the one’s that are already in place and ignore the others.

For 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.

The initial response to Abdirahman’s 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.

It also shows complete disrespect and disregard for the victim, his family, and by extension, the community at large. We can and must do better.

(Posted 10:30 a.m., Aug. 18)

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