Ottawa police detective suspended over 'racist' meme

A detective with the Ottawa Police Service's drug unit has been suspended in connection to an internal investigation into a meme denounced by the chief as "racist" and "disgusting." 

Const. James Ramsay suspended Thursday following internal investigation

Const. James Ramsay, a detective with the Ottawa Police Service's drug unit, was suspended Thursday in connection to an internal investigation into the origin of a meme denounced by Chief Peter Sloly as "racist" and "disgusting." (LinkedIn)

UPDATE | Const. Ramsay's suspension finished at the end of July. His next court appearance on charges under the Police Services Act is scheduled for Sept. 8.

A detective with the Ottawa Police Service's drug unit has been suspended in connection to an internal investigation into a meme denounced by the chief as "racist" and "disgusting." 

Const. James Ramsay, 39, was suspended with pay Thursday afternoon following a two-week investigation launched by Chief Peter Sloly into the origin of a photo collage depicting 13 officers, most of whom are men of colour, with the words: "Ottawa Police Service — We're always hiring...anyone."

The meme was widely shared by current and retired officers before coming to the attention of the executive. 

"It targets a number of racialized members within the service. It is an overt act of racism and it is unacceptable," Sloly said during a virtual meeting of the Ottawa police services board in late April. 

"This is more evidence of the need for a serious overhaul of our culture, ethics and ethical behaviour. The culture of the Ottawa Police Service needs significant improvement. We can no longer ignore this reality."

Ramsay has not been formally charged under the Police Services Act, and other officers are still being interviewed at this point.

Three of the officers who appear in the meme were recently charged by the RCMP in an alleged tow truck kickback scheme.

Others are facing criminal charges including assault, or have been convicted of offences including impaired driving and unlawful entry. Some of the officers are facing charges under the Police Services Act.

A second version of the meme included an image of Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal, currently suspended with pay after two women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.

The meme depicts 13 Ottawa police officers, mostly men of colour. (CBC)

Investigation prejudiced: OPA

The Ottawa Police Association (OPA) is calling Ramsay's suspension unfair, and says the chief has already prejudiced the investigation by calling the meme "racist." 

"Regardless if it being on the topic of race or any other investigation, the chief is entitled to his opinion. But when [police chiefs] are the only ones with the authority to conduct an investigation under the Police Services Act, it becomes an abuse of process when there is predetermination of guilt or facts or intent," said OPA president Matt Skof. 

Skof says Ramsay identifies as Métis, and said the matter could have been dealt with under the human resources department's respectful workplace policy framework.

Skof said this is the first time Ramsay has been suspended following an investigation by the police service's professional standards section.

Disciplined before

In 2017, Ramsay was disciplined after driving an unmarked police vehicle to Montreal. He was banned from driving his police vehicle for a month following that incident.

On the side, Ramsay runs a video production company that specializes in drone cinematography, working with various local sports organizations and companies to create promotional videos.

In 2015, he organized a fundraising campaign for a fellow officer's son who was diagnosed with leukemia. For the campaign, he created a glossy video that featured the OPS tactical unit, Ottawa firefighters, members of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Redblacks, and local and national television sports personalities.

Ramsay did not return a CBC request for comment. The Ottawa Police Service declined a request for comment, citing the ongoing investigation by the professional standards section.


  • CBC has removed details from the original story that were not pertinent to the matter being reported.
    May 17, 2020 11:36 AM ET

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now