Somali community voices concerns over police brutality by WRPS

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On July 5th of this year, Abdisalam Omer, an unarmed Black man belonging to the Somali Canadian community, was brutally beaten by officers from the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS). The police aggressively pulled Mr. Omer out of his vehicle with weapons ready at hand. Soon more officers arrived at the scene, armed with guns. Mr. Omer, who was violently beaten by police, is said to suffer from mental health challenges.Witnesses who knew Mr. Omer tried calming him, but they were told to remain silent by police.

Police say that the arrest escalated as they believed the victim was carrying a gun and that there had been an indication of “violence.” The police did not find any weapon following the arrest. The incident took place around 1 a.m. on the corner of Victoria St South and Westmount Rd in Kitchener, as shown by the footage of Mr. Omer’s violent arrest:.

Alarmed by the incident, on Aug. 27th, the Somali Canadian Association decided to meet with officers from the WRPS at the Victoria Hills Community Gym, where they voiced their concerns regarding over-policing against the Somali community and this latest incident of police brutality. Members of the police that attended included Chief Bryan Larkin, Superintendent John Goodman, and Deputy Chiefs Mark Crowell and Shirley Hilton. 

The WRPS tried to assure the community members that the incident and the officers involved would be investigated by the Peel Regional Police. They added that WRPS remains committed to improving equity and diversity within their organization. However, members of the Somali Canadian Association remain unsatisfied.

“Meeting with the Somali Canadian Association of the Waterloo Region has further informed us of some of the challenges and barriers the Somali Community has been experiencing, and for us to find ways to better support this community in the future,” Constable André Johnson said. “Our Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Strategic Plan, launched earlier this year, is aimed at transformational, organizational and cultural change across the Police Service.”

The Peel Regional Police Service itself is under investigation for the shooting of two unarmed men, Ejaz Choudry and D’Andre Campbell, who both belonged to minority communities and suffered from mental health conditions.

The incident that occurred in early July remains an ongoing investigation. 

“We are subject to the timelines of the investigation by Peel Regional Police, and at this time, have no indication when it will be complete,” Johnson said.

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