Screen capture from video posted of altercation between an Ottawa officer and a large group of young people.
An altercation between an Ottawa police officer and a group of young people in which the officer claims his emergency radio failed has prompted the police force to give supervisors the discretion to allow officers to double-up while on patrol.Parts of the incident were caught on video.The move comes less than one day after police brass publicly guaranteed they would safeguard officer safety while the force grapples with a faulty city-owned radio system.On Monday afternoon around 3:40 p.m., an Ottawa police officer was responding to the area of Broadview Avenue near Notre Dame and Nepean high schools, when a confrontation between the officer and a group of people occurred.A video posted to Instagram shows the officer confronting a young man with a bike on a driveway. The officer puts his hand on the person and then the person swings a fist at the officer. The officer strikes back and the two fall beneath a large group of students who entered the fray. The video then ends.The incident on video occurred near Tilbury Park on Sherbourne Road.The caption on the video alleges police were there to break up a fight at Notre Dame and began focusing on the person seen with the bicycle a short distance away. Ottawa police were called “to break up two white girls fighting a black girl at Notre Dame high school, then move attention over to the black kid who supposedly just moved a bicycle out of the way but was told he stole it! Enough is enough (Ottawa police) need to stop putting their hands on black kids and black men in Ottawa,” the caption reads.Police said Tuesday they were called to the area to deal with fighting involving more than 40 teens. The officer involved sustained minor injuries.“Charges have been laid and the matter is now before the courts,” police said in a statement. “The investigation continues. As such, the Ottawa police will not comment further at this time.”The officer was alone at the time of the incident and “attempted to engage his emergency button and it appeared to not work,” Chief Charles Bordeleau wrote in an email to all officers Tuesday afternoon.“Tests are currently being done on his issued radio and from the location to understand why no transmission was received by the (communications) centre.”Bordeleau has now given frontline staff sergeants and inspectors “the discretion to deploy doubled up units in vehicles to remind officers to arrive with back–up for priority calls.”The move means officers wouldn’t be alone when responding to calls and would have immediate back up.It comes after police board members asked Monday where exactly the Ottawa Police Service would find money to spend on augmenting a radio system that just months after implementation is already having such severe issues that it’s prompted a health and safety complaint to the police force.While it’s possible the force could have to pay to augment the faulty system, police won’t know for several months.As first reported by this newspaper earlier this month, the force’s joint health and safety committee, prompted by a unified front from both police unions, has complained to the force that the city’s unreliable radio system and its constant black-out zones are putting officers at risk on a daily basis — challenging their abilities to get important information on calls for service and to communicate with fellow officers.The city-owned radio system, run by Bell, costs taxpayers $55 million over 10 years and more than $10 million in equipment costs. The system was supposed to be up and fully running in 2015 but only had police, the final set of users, completely implemented in March.Bordeleau told Monday’s police board meeting that the force continues to work with the city and Bell to fix those “technical issues.”“We want to, first of all, try to fix the system we have now and then start having discussions as far as what’s next.”Fixing bugs on the existing radio system won’t cost more money but if there are enhancements required, there is “no additional money” in the force’s budget, said acting director general Jeff Letourneau.Bordeleau said the force is confident that Bell will be able to resolve the issues, and if they aren’t able to resolve them, the force will continue to work with the city to figure out how to close those gaps. He urged that taking money from the tech plan would derail progress there.Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal said the force is starting to inspect the radio system with the city. Jaswal said that he expects “within three months” the force will have a better understanding of what the technical issues are and what additional changes it may need. What that means for costs will also be clearer in that time frame.While police could not say Monday, what those costs could look like, Bordeleau gave the board his word that safety would come first.“You have my assurance … that we will do everything we can to ensure that the officers have the radio system that they need to have in order to do their work and that they’re safe,” he said.“We will not compromise their safety.”In Tuesday’s email to officers, Bordeleau said the force is “developing longer-term strategies while this issue is being investigated.”Bell and city officials were conducting tests of the system in the area Tuesday.Syogaretnam@postmedia.comTwitter.com/shaaminiwhyALSO IN THE NEWS Flooding updates: Volunteers needed Tuesday as water peaks approachSenators respond to Simpsons’ jab in Canadian fashionViola Desmond $10 bill voted world’s best bank note