OPP officer lets protesters take photos in back of police cruiser
Police say officers can balance friendliness with professionalism, public safety
Video of an Ontario Provincial Police officer using his cruiser as a glorified photo booth for some protesters in downtown Ottawa has a resident who took the video questioning whether police are taking the protests seriously.
Some Ottawa residents have been critical of police and all levels of governments for their handling of the protest as it enters its third weekend with no end in sight.
"That's a real misjudgment and it brings into question how seriously the police are actually taking this. It's one thing to be civil to the protesters. It's another thing to indulge them in pranks and antics," said the person who took the video. "Basically turning the cop car into a big joke."
The person, who CBC is not naming because of concerns for their safety and doxxing — the practice of posting someone's personal information online — said he was walking along Metcalfe Street in Ottawa on Thursday when he witnessed multiple protesters "using the police cruiser as a photo booth," with others taking photos.
He said it was clear the people were protesters since one had the words "Freedom Convoy 2022" on the back of his shirt.
At one point on the tape, a loud horn could be heard in the background, prompting the officer to say "I hope they're not honking at me thinking I've arrested you or something."
"There's a difference between being civil and appearing as though you're sympathizing," the person videoing told CBC.
In a statement, the OPP said it is aware of the video and that all members have been reminded of their professional obligations.
"As part of their duties and interactions with the public, frontline OPP officers are encouraged to balance the professionalism required to ensure public safety in various community settings while having the discretion to be appropriately friendly or approachable," OPP wrote.
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'Not rolling out a welcome mat'
"I know this [video] may be perceived, and especially by downtown residents, as the police are on [protesters'] side," said Joao Velloso, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has been studying the protest. But he said that, from the beginning, officers have been given orders to contain the situation without intervening.
"It is an occupation, a long-term occupation," he said, adding that, whether right or wrong, police have been consistent in trying to negotiate with the protesters to decrease the size of the occupation.
"It's not like rolling a welcome mat for them," he said. "You can have the community approach. You can interact, you can be civil and you can still trace firm lines."
With files from Darren Major