Durham police chief disgusted by 'repulsive' Facebook post shared by ex-officers
Post shows white stick figure officers threatening stick man with brown face
Durham Region's police chief fought back tears on Tuesday as he condemned what he calls a "repulsive" image that was shared on a closed Facebook group of retired officers from the service.
The image, shared on a group called Durham Regional Police Friends and obtained by CBC Toronto, shows two stick figures with white faces wearing police hats and standing over the stick figure of a man with a brown face.
One points a gun at the brown man while pinning him down with his foot, while the other holds a stick and appears poised to strike the man on the ground.
Other stick figures, on either side of the officers, are smiling. "My dad is my hero," reads handwriting above the image.
"It disgusts me. It's repulsive," an emotional Chief Paul Martin said.
"We've worked so hard as a police service to reach out to our community and to create a sense of inclusion, not only within the service, but in the community. It's offensive. It's repulsive," he added.
"Think of the reaction of some of my own members and some of the reaction from the community. In some respects, you think you have made such headway. Then something like this comes along and you go: 'What are people thinking?' It is disappointing to an incredible level. I apologize."
Watch Chief Martin's emotional statement:
Earlier Tuesday, Martin sent a memo to the entire force labelling the image "hateful" and warned that anyone involved in sharing this kind of content will be "investigated and disciplined to the fullest extent possible."
Martin said the material was created in the U.S. years ago and the person who shared it is a retired member of the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS). CBC Toronto has not been able to contact the person who shared the image.
On the Facebook page, the group says it was "originated by members of the DRP Pensioners Association" and it says it is this "a friendly meeting place for ALL Retired and Serving DRP members, whether sworn and civilian."
'This is causing anger and resentment'
Martin said he is concerned about how the image will affect the force's reputation in the community it serves east of Toronto.
"Understandably, this is causing anger and resentment," the letter states.
"It is also insulting and hurtful to the dedicated women and men of this service who literally put their lives on the line each day to uphold the law with the highest ethical standards," Martin added.
Group has done damage, chief says
The police chief said he has asked the DRPS legal counsel to consider what it can do following the offending post, including stopping the use of DRPS logos.
He also said that the material has been removed from the group's Facebook page following his demand that it be taken down.
"Members of this offending group who are no longer employed by the service should be ashamed of the hurt they have caused in the community and the damage they have done to the women and men who continue to serve," Martin added.
Durham police's professional standards unit is investigating.
Sandra Forsythe, a member of the Durham Community Action Group, says she is not surprised by the image.
The group, until about three years ago, had been working with the service to resolve problems. Then, the service changed the people involved in doing community outreach and meetings stopped.
'Black parents are terrified'
"I can't say I'm surprised. That's not surprising," she said when she looked at the image. "They put a lot of thought into that. And that makes me mad. That is gross."
Forsythe says black parents are fearful of the police. She says she prays when her grandsons go out.
"Black parents are terrified. Black mothers are terrified when their sons go out. Why should we have to live like that? Why can I not trust that when my son goes out, if he has done something wrong, you are just going to treat him right? Just follow the rules."
The fear is that police will kill their sons, she said.
What needs to change is the policies of Durham police to counter racism by officers, she added.
Police officers need to be held accountable for their actions with real consequences, she said.