Reinforced gloves figure to play major role in Montsion case
The trial of the police officer charged in the death of Abdirahman Abdi will likely address whether standard-issue protective equipment can be considered a weapon
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In light of suggestions that an Ottawa police officer’s use of reinforced gloves was a key consideration in a weapons charge brought against him, there are now questions over how much liability officers have for the equipment provided to them.
Const. Daniel Montsion was charged last week with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the controversial July death of Abdirahman Abdi. According to media leaks, the weapons charge is related to the officer’s use of “assault gloves” which are reinforced with carbon fibre over the knuckles.
Bruce Chapman, president of the Police Association of Ontario, which represents low- and mid-rank officers across the province, said many were surprised to hear a glove they use to avoid knives and syringes could be deemed a weapon.
“It's a form of protection for their hands; that's the purpose of the glove,” he said. “Where is the line, and how is it it drawn, that a piece of equipment that's used to protect an officer is considered a weapon?”
Ontario’s community safety ministry regulates weapons used by police forces, and said that gloves and other protective equipment aren’t classified as weapons, so they’re not part of the use-of-force training required every 12 months.
Paul Lewandowski, a prominent criminal defence lawyer, said these gloves can be used to smash open windows and guard police from bullets.
“Any officer is allowed to use force to effect an arrest. But of course they have to be acting with lawful authority,” he said.
Lewandowski said anything can be considered a weapon under the Criminal Code, which explicitly states: "weapon means any thing used, designed to be used or intended for use" to injure, kill or intimidate someone.
“A gun fits that, a knife fits that," he said, "but basically anything designed or intended for use to injure someone.”
Lewandowski said he’s not familiar with the Abdi case, but said an officer can legitimately open a window using the same tool that could be a weapon if applied to someone’s head. He says the same principle guides gun use, and may have been behind the weapon charge.
"If an officer is acting beyond the scope of their duties, they're no longer going to be able to rely on the fact that it's standard-issue, or it's been issued by the police."
Ottawa police are now undergoing an audit of all gloves it has provided to officers. Chapman said his group has asked the police chiefs’ association to study the issue, and he suspects they’ll take “a thorough review of all the equipment” officers use across Ontario.