Ottawa’s police chief said he was caught off guard by news that Ontario’s Community Safety minister wants to see an internal audit of all gloves worn by the force’s officers, even though the province doesn’t currently regulate such equipment.
“Let’s be clear that gloves, boots, clothes — they’re not weapons. It’s in the manner that they can potentially be used,” Bordeleau said Monday. “Gloves are not part of any listed equipment that the ministry regulates, nor are boots, nor are pants.”
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde told CBC News she’s requesting the results of Bordeleau’s audit, and would like to see other police forces across the province to follow his lead.
But Bordeleau said Monday he was never contacted by Lalonde or her ministry.
“If the ministry wishes to have a copy of the audit they can make that request to me directly, at which time it will be assessed,” Bordeleau said in an email to CBC News.
Gloves at centre of death investigation
Bordeleau ordered the audit last week after a CBC News investigation found reinforced gloves worn by the officer charged in the death of Abdirahman Abdi are being considered a weapon by Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
On July 24, 2016, Abdi lost vital signs during a confrontation with Const. Daniel Montsion and another officer as they attempted to arrest him for allegedly groping people inside a coffee shop. Abdi was pronounced dead in hospital the following day.
Earlier this month, the SIU charged Montsion with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection to Abdi’s death.
Montsion had been wearing a pair of Oakley Standard Issue “assault gloves,” which are central to his assault with a weapon charge, according to sources close to the investigation.
‘I haven’t seen any direction from the Ministry’
Lalonde said Monday she’s encouraged by Bordeleau’s audit, and is asking police services across Ontario to follow suit and share their findings. That information would be reviewed and possible incorporated into use-of-force guidelines across Ontario, said Lalonde.
Reinforced gloves don’t currently appear under the list of approved police-issued weapons, which include Tasers, batons and pepper spray. Weapons appearing on the list normally require special training and protocols around their use by police.
“For now Chief Bordeleau is doing his first audit and he will be sharing his audit with me,” said Lalonde. “We [will] look at this as a larger scale approach for the province,” Lalonde said.
But Bordeleau said he only heard about the request through the media.
Asked whether the ministry has in fact communicated with the Ottawa Police Service and others across the province, a spokesperson replied: “The exact method [of communication] is still being determined. Correspondence will be sent out as soon as possible.”
Police board also in the dark
Ottawa Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry said he was confused by the province’s message.
“On one hand [Lalonde]’s encouraging police services to do an audit, but then the minister’s staff said gloves, helmets and other [clothing] is not subject to [the] Minister’s guidelines,” said El-Chantiry. “So we need to have a discussion.”
El-Chantiry wouldn’t comment further about the broader issue.
“I can’t talk about the gloves,” said El-Chantiry. “We were told by the SIU not to speak about it.”
Bordeleau echoed that message Monday, notwithstanding earlier criticism over his silence.
“Our goal is to ensure there’s a fair trial and anything that the media has asked me to say is inappropriate because it all comes back down to that trial,” he said.
Bordeleau said the internal audit into reinforced gloves should be presented to him in “the coming weeks.”