Police chief apologizes to Windsor's Islamic community
Officers offended and embarrassed Muslim families during arrests
Windsor, Ont.'s chief of police has publicly apologized to the city's Islamic community after officers who arrested two Muslim men suspected of involvement in a radical Islamist group offended and embarrassed the men's families in the process.
"We're looking at what we can do differently, what we would do differently here, and that's going to take us a little while longer," Chief Gary Smith told a news conference Thursday.
His comments relate to an incident on Oct. 30 during which Windsor police assisted the RCMP in arresting Yassir Ali Khan, 30, and Mohammad Al-Sahli, 33. The two were wanted by the FBI on charges of conspiracy to commit federal crimes.
During that arrest, the wife of one of the suspects was patted down by a male officer.
"One of the things we'll be looking at is: how do we bring female officers that aren't tactically trained inside a centre of a perimeter, and should we have done it this time, could we have done it better?" Smith said.
"The actions taken did cause embarrassment and did offend their religious beliefs," Smith added. "I sincerely apologize to the families and the Islamic community."
Reaction in Windsor to Smith's apology was mixed.
"From a politically correct standpoint, it's a good thing to do, but… more needs to be done than that," said Wardell Huot.
Added Penny, who declined to give her last name, "I think it was great that he apologized …for what he had to apologize for."
But another man who declined to give his name felt the apology was unnecessary. "To me, It's kind of leaning way over backwards.… We got laws in this country and everybody lives by those laws."
Khan and Al-Sahli were co-operative during their arrests, as were their families, Smith said.
But according to their lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, officers showed up with guns drawn in the presence of "terrified children" outside at least one of the homes where the men were arrested.
"In the course of the arrest, officers on the scene had interaction with the families of both men," Smith said. "It is this interaction that raised concerns among the family members and the Islamic community about the cultural sensitivity of Windsor police officers."
Officers had received sensitivity training in 2007 in the form of about 12 panel discussions involving representatives of different cultural backgrounds, according to spokesman Sgt. Brett Corey. But the training "was too generic and a more thorough presentation" to officers is needed, Smith said.
New training will be scheduled, Smith said, and will be given by Murad Aktas of the Windsor Islamic Association, which represents about 25,000 Muslims in Windsor and Essex County. Aktas could not be reached for comment.
Ed Parent, president of the Windsor Police Association, objected to Smith's apology, saying proper procedures were followed during the arrests.