Woman with Down syndrome files human rights complaint over officers' comments
The officers were recorded describing Munoz as 'disfigured' and a 'half-person' during a traffic stop
A 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after two Toronto police officers were recorded mocking her during a traffic stop.
Francie Munoz argues the behaviour displayed by Const. Sasa Sljivo and Const. Matthew Saris on Nov. 5, 2016 amounts to discrimination on the grounds of disability.
She says in the complaint that she has suffered emotional trauma as a result of the incident, and that it has undermined her trust in law enforcement.
- Officers who called her daughter 'disfigured' and 'different' won't apologize on camera, says mother
Sljivo and Saris are facing a disciplinary hearing on charges under the Police Services Act, with the next hearing scheduled for Oct. 18.
Police documents show Sljivo is charged with misconduct related to the use of profane, abusive or insulting language, while Saris is charged with misconduct related to the failure to report Sljivo's comments.
The officers have not said how they will plead, though they have issued a written apology for the incident, calling it a "lapse in judgment."
Munoz's family has consistently asked for a public apology — a request repeated in the human rights complaint.
In the document, Munoz says the officers offered through their union to apologize privately but have balked at doing so publicly. Their behaviour while appearing before the disciplinary hearing only compounded the issue, she alleges.
"At no point did the officers greet or look at the applicant, let alone make any effort to say words of apology or regret. Being ignored by the officers when they had the opportunity to say or do something deepened the applicant's feeling of injury," the complaint says.
The officers' lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Munoz asks for an order to make Toronto's police chief publicly apologize and express his commitment to ensure that all officers in the force undergo human rights training on working with people with disabilities.
She also asks that the force be ordered to implement a more rigorous screening process for new officers "to identify pre-existing biases or prejudices, especially in regards to those with disabilities."
The complaint says the comments were made inside a police cruiser after the officers pulled over Munoz's mother, Pamela Munoz, on allegations that she had run a red light. Francie Munoz was a passenger in the back seat.
While preparing to fight the $325 ticket months later, Munoz's mother requested the evidence against her and obtained an audio recording of the officers' conversation.
Sljivo can be heard describing Munoz as "disfigured" and a "half-person," while Saris is heard laughing and agreeing, the complaint says.
Munoz "was inconsolable for days after learning about the officers' remarks and became anxious and withdrawn in the presence of first responders and other uniformed personnel," it says.
"As time passes, it has also become clear that Francie's self-esteem, confidence and sense of self-worth have all been undermined by the derogatory comments directed at her by persons in a position of power and authority in society, whom she previously looked up to and viewed with respect."
Munoz is also seeking $25,000 in damages for harm to dignity and sense of self-worth, as well as $5,000 to cover her legal expenses.
A hearing over her mother's ticket has been pushed back to December, the complaint says.