Ottawa

Family of black teen charged with assaulting officer demand investigation

The family of a high school student charged with assaulting an Ottawa Police Service officer is calling for an independent investigation into the officer's actions and whether they represent a systemic problem with how the force deals with black youth. 

Teen suspended and faces expulsion, as well as 4 criminal charges

This still from a video posted on social media shows an Ottawa police officer on top of a high school student. The teen has been charged with assaulting the officer. (Submitted)

The family of a high school student charged with assaulting an Ottawa Police Service officer is calling for an independent investigation into the officer's actions and whether they represent a systemic problem with how the force deals with black youth. 

The family will be filing its request with the province's police watchdog, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). 

Their request comes after their 15-year-old son was charged with obstruction of justice, theft, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer following a Tillbury Park fight on April 29.

The teen was suspended 20 days from his high school, a suspension that could lead to expulsion, and his parents are worried his life will be destroyed. 

CBC News cannot name the teen because he is a minor facing charges, and therefore his family members cannot be identified either.

Incident captured on video

The incident began when police officers attended a fight between teen girls from rival high schools at the Sherbourne Road park.

A police officer ended up focusing his attention on a Grade 10 student who was standing by and watching the fight. The teen's arrest and altercation with the officer was captured on cellphone video and shared widely on social media. 

On Thursday, the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition joined the family in its call for a full probe by the independent police oversight agency. 

"We want the probe to look into this as a systemic issue," said the coalition's Dahabo Ahmed Omer, who says the community group now has more than a dozen videos of the altercation.

They allege the videos depict racial profiling and the use of unnecessary force.

Dahabo Ahmed Omer, with the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, says the group is advocating for an independent inquiry to shed light on the treatment of black residents in Ottawa. 0:50

Police actions troubling: CRARR

The family is also getting help from the Montreal Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) in making its application to OIPRD.

The OIPRD can investigate complaints by the public into officers' actions and the policies and procedures of police services.

CRARR's Al Babineau, a 29-year RCMP veteran, said it was his opinion the actions of the officer in the video escalated an otherwise routine bike theft investigation.

Something triggered an unbelievable response from the officer.- Al Babineau

"What happened here is troubling," said Babineau. "I did not see any type of aggressive behaviour on the part of the young fellow. And for some unknown reason, the police officer felt it appropriate to put his hands on a young man." 

The veteran cop said that up to that moment, the officer acted appropriately.

"But at some point, something triggered an unbelievable response from the officer," Babineau said.

School suspension not explained

The teen's family has also been trying to get a response from the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) as to why it suspended him for 20 days.  

"It happened after school hours. It did not happen on school property. He was not involved in the [initial brawl]. But he has now been reprimanded in such a harsh way that impacts his rights to education," said Ahmed Omer. 

She said that by not explaining or providing a letter with the reasons behind the suspension, the school has failed to follow its own protocol. 

OCSB spokesperson Mardi de Kemp said the administration is cooperating with Ottawa police, despite the fact the incident did not take place on school property.

De Kemp said school policies are being applied appropriately, but offered no details on the suspension for privacy reasons. 

In a statement, the Ottawa Police Service said they made an arrest April 29 while attending the park primarily to break up the fight, which involved more than 40 female students.