Observant commentators have suggested that police actually operate like a gang, closing ranks unquestioningly to support their own no matter how egregious the member’s actions may have been. While there is some truth in this, police are not quite like gangs in that they lack the honor of gangs who at least have some limits, some acts they will not tolerate among members. If anyone needs a case in point they need only look at the dubious activities of the Ottawa Police Association and Ottawa police officers in response to the killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a Somalian-Canadian man suffering mental distress who was beaten to death by Constable Daniel Montsion in July of 2016. Montsion had previously expressed a problem with a suspect who was Somalian.
On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the first day of preliminary court procedures leading to Montsion’s trial for manslaughter, several Ottawa police officers wore blue and black rubber wristbands stating “United We Stand #1998.” The number printed on the band is actually Montsion’s badge number. The rubber band bracelets are being sold for $2 apiece with the money going to the Ottawa Police Association.
This open show of support for a killer cop whose brutal beating of the defenseless man was partly caught on video is a tasteless and provocative move in a context that is already heated and where community members have mobilized against racist policing. It is an arrogant move that is clearly an attempt to put pressure on the court even as police say they do not comment on cases before the courts.
Incredibly the cops are using the excuse that it is a measure to address the trauma officers face on the job. This is part of a growing campaign to pose police crimes as primarily being about traumas for officers who then need more public money and resources for support. Some paid “criminologists” are being mustered to lend a veneer of credibility to the trauma money appeals led by police associations. Those same bought “criminologists” show little to no regard for the victims of police violence.
A spokesperson for the Justice for Abdirahman Abdi campaign, William Felepchuk, calls the bracelets an “outrage.” He notes that the nature of the crime Monsion is accused of is severe and suggest the move is an interference in the criminal justice process. Felepchuk further notes that police would not be so welcoming of civilians wearing such arm bands in cases of someone accused of killing a police officer.
Police always have pressures, both overt like the arm bands and covert like implied non-cooperation with prosecution, to apply on broader criminal justice processes. One should not expect anything resembling justice from the state in its dealings with killer cops.