OTTAWA—Over 1,200 wristbands embossed with the words “United we stand / divided we fall” along with “#1998” have been purchased by members of the Ottawa Police Service and their supporters. 1998 is the badge number of Constable Daniel Montsion, the officer charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon in the July 2016 beating death of Abdirahman Abdi.
“It’s a very difficult environment that we’re in, in policing.” Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof explained.
Critics contend that it is a difficult environment for citizens when police feel empowered to do an end-run around the process governing the procurement and issuance of deadly equipment.
The Ottawa police quartermaster is responsible for outfitting officers with clothing and gear, but the privately-ordered Oakley Standard Issue Assault Gloves used in the beating death were not one of the eight approved glove models on the quartermaster’s list. Further, the two approved models reinforced with hardened knuckle plating are issued to members of the motorcycle unit, for the sole purpose of summer and winter crash protection.
Cash cow for police fund
Montsion, 36, previously on desk duty throughout the investigation, is now suspended with pay. His legal expenses are being covered by the police association.
The wristbands, ordered by officers, are being sold for $2 each with all profits going to a police benevolent fund. No proceeds will be received by Abdirahman Abdi’s family, or any victim assistance fund.
Not all Ottawa police officers support the wristband initiative.
“I think it hurts the integrity of the service. It’s taking sides,” said one officer, on condition of anonymity.
“I think it’s in bad taste that police are presenting themselves as judge and jury before a court case is over,” said Aisha Sherazi, a member of Ottawa’s Community and Police Action Committee (COMPAC). “They wouldn’t do that for any other member of the public, and they shouldn’t do that for themselves.”
Ketcia Peters, COMPAC co-chair, added, “Think of how the Abdi family will feel, knowing this. What kind of message does it send?”
President Skof insists that the bracelets merely signal solidarity with a fellow officer in difficult circumstances; nothing more.