“Justice for Abdirahman” coalition calls for significant changes in police practices

 

Photo source: www.justiceforabulrahman.ca

In the wake of the much publicized death of Abdirahman Abdi following an encounter with the police on 25 July, a newly formed advocacy group: Justice for Abdirahman, held a press conference at City Hall on Thursday to address this tragedy. The new group includes the Somali Resource and Heritage Centre, Canadian Friends of Somalia, the Canadian Somali Mothers Association, Somali Centre for Family Services, Toronto-based African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Ottawa, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers.  Information from different sources indicated that Ottawa Police had been called with an allegation that thirty-seven year-old Abdirahman, with a history of mental illness, had been groping female customers at a nearby Bridgehead coffee shop. His death had elicited outrage from many community groups about police strategies in dealing with people of colour and persons suffering from mental illness.
Below is the list of recommendations from the Coalition :

As representatives from civil society, we have come together to speak with a united voice about the tragic death of a Canadian-Somali man, Abdirahman Abdi. We believe that his death could and should have been prevented. We believe that our society has an accountability to work together to avert such deaths from ever happening again. We collectively call on all three levels of governments, the Ottawa Police Service, the Ottawa Police Services Board, and responsible police oversight agencies to:

1- Acknowledge that there is a crisis within the Ottawa Police Services when it comes to how authorities interact with members of racialized communities, and specifically, with those with mental health issues;

2- Strike a task force to examine this crisis, and the disproportionate number of Black men and people with mental health differences that have been killed by police, and to commit to funding relevant programs and legislating policies that address systemic problems in relation to vulnerable and racialized communities; analyze all best practices in community policing, consult with communities, and provide a comprehensive review of police services and an action plan for change, including specific timelines;

3- Respond to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s assertion that there is “no effective mechanism to hold police accountable for systemic discrimination” and to provide a remedy for this gap;

4- Amend legislation to ensure that the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) provides its reports to the public, until such time that the system has been fully reviewed and overhauled to provide a transparent, effective, and independent civilian oversight and accountability of police;

5- Commit to reassigning police officers who are under investigation for causing death or serious injury to administrative duty, and prohibiting any form of interfacing with community members until the investigation is complete;

6- Fully implement the recommendations made by Ontario’s Ombudsman in the recent report titled “A Matter of Life and Death” and provide regular updates to communities;

7- Create consistent standards across all police services in every province with regards to training in dealing with and responding to individuals with mental health issues, as referenced in the 2013 Mental Health and Criminal Justice Policy Framework by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health;

8- Require the Special Investigation Unit, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Statistics Canada to collect and publicly report race-based data on police encounters with civilians, including but not limited to, police use of force;

9- Create a special task force to review all Coroner’s Inquest recommendations made since 2001, and identify key recommendations which require immediate response and implementation.10- Require all police services in every province to place body cameras, as well as cameras in police vehicles.

Source: www.justiceforabulrahman.ca

 
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