Police chief vows to unearth source of 'disgusting, racist meme'

Ottawa's police chief has launched an internal investigation to find the source of a "disgusting, racist meme" circulating within the Ottawa Police Service.

Photo collage shows mainly black officers, some of whom face charges

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said Monday he's launched an investigation into the source of a racist meme making the rounds within the Ottawa Police Service. (Stu Mills/CBC )

Ottawa's police chief has launched an internal investigation to find the source of what he's calling a "disgusting, racist meme" circulating within the Ottawa Police Service.

Chief Peter Sloly said Monday afternoon the meme had been brought to his attention within the past 24 hours by other officers, and is now being circulated in the community.

"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.  

"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."

CBC News has obtained the meme and spoken to both retired and current officers who got it over text and WhatsApp, but is not publishing the image.

Includes officers facing charges

The photo collage depicts 13 officers, most of whom are men of colour, with the words: "Ottawa Police Service — We're always hiring...anyone."

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.

The meme includes a photo of Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal, who is currently suspended with pay pending an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment of a civilian employee.

It also includes images of Kal Ghadban, a popular and respected staff sergeant who took his own life in 2014, and Const. Khoa Hoang, who launched a human rights complaint against Ottawa police alleging systemic racism.

Limits of investigation

Sloly said police will reach out to the affected members of the force and the community.

He called the distribution of the meme "a significant setback" to the force's attempt to build race relations and foster a culture of inclusivity.  

Sloly cautioned the investigation into who created the meme and the culture that contributed to its spread may not yield substantial answers. Police are limited in what information they can access if the meme was shared on external business systems and devices.

He also reminded the board of his announcement that the police service is creating a new two-officer unit focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.

"The responsibility for every member of the Ottawa Police Service is that we turn these crises into an opportunity for needed change."

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