‘Ottawa’ Ottawa Police to Audit force-issued Gloves, Reveals Limited Vetting
Under the weight of a set of watchdog charges against an Ottawa officer wearing Oakley gloves with hardened knuckles, the chief of police has ordered an audit of all force-approved glove purchases for officers.
The move signals that the Ottawa police has no force-wide vetting policy in place for when these gloves are issued.
Senior officers were informed on Monday of the audit “directed by the chief to document all gloves issued to (Ottawa Police Service) members for use on duty.” They were given a deadline of March 22 to complete the inventory, which will require them to document the brand and model of the gloves, rationale for issue, unit to which they were issued, who approved the purchase, who purchased the gloves, and whether they have hardened knuckles.
The audit, however, does not include documenting gloves that have been purchased by officers for their own use without approval by the force, suggesting to some insiders that the audit is not only about addressing the lack of an overarching policy and need for uniformity but also about assessing and limiting the force’s civil liability for glove-involved police incidents.
Const. Daniel Montsion, 36, has been charged by the Special Investigations Unit with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the death of Abdirahman Abdi. Abdi was pronounced dead in July after a violent arrest by Montsion on the steps of Abdi’s Hintonburg apartment building.
A criminal case will now determine whether Montsion caused the man’s death, as the SIU alleges. Abdi’s family has said they will pursue civil action for his death but have not yet named the targets of that lawsuit. It’s believed the police watchdog laid the assault with a weapon charge specifically because Montsion was wearing hardened-knuckle gloves during the arrest.
Montsion, as a member of the direct action response team – a group of anti-gang enforcement officers – is a carbine rifle operator, a special designation that allows him to use the force’s long guns. The gloves were issued to Montsion by his unit, which purchased the gloves with approval. Other members of the unit also have the same gloves.
Montsion’s release conditions stipulate that he is not to possess any weapons as defined by the Criminal Code but also not to posses “any gloves with hardened knuckle plating.” He has also been ordered not to communicate with his then supervisor, believed to be involved in the purchasing of the gloves, and other witness officers in the SIU’s case against him. Montsion was scheduled to appear at SIU headquarters in Mississauga Wednesday to be fingerprinted.
Bordeleau confirmed to the Citizen on Wednesday that he ordered the audit and said that the force has “policies and procedures with respect to the issuance of clothing and equipment for our members.”
Bordeleau did not specify what the vetting process is for gloves for carbine operators or those in specialty units like DART or tactical. He also would not expand on the force’s policy for approving and issuing anything other than patrol-grade gloves to officers, which are basic black leather or synthetic gloves with a Velcro strap fastener.
“Any other comments would be in breach of the SIU regulations and would potentially impact the fairness of the matter that is now before the courts therefore I cannot comment,” Bordeleau said.
What the need for an audit makes clear, officers say, is that there is no clear policy on approving gloves. While some units are making cases for different gloves or other equipment approved for purchasing, those approvals are happening in a bubble.
And while Montsion’s assault with a weapon charge is believed to be tied to his gloves, officers do not train to wear them when fighting. The glove’s primary function, as intended, is to protect skin from breaking and to create a barrier. Carbine operators and other officers may be required to break glass with the hardened knuckles, officers say.
Since gloves aren’t considered weapons in policing, their use and purchase isn’t standardized. Other individual items that aren’t intended to be used as weapons such as flashlights, knives for cutting seat belts and multi-tools are also often purchased individually, and against policy, by some officers for use on-duty. Other items, if a case can be made for use or necessity on the job — as was the case with Montsion’s gloves — are purchased by entire squads with approval from their supervisors.
Montsion is scheduled to appear in court on March 29.