A day after a video was posted online in which a Toronto police officer tells a bystander filming a police arrest that the “(suspect) is going to spit in your face, you’re going to get AIDS,” the police service issued an apology on Twitter.
“1st step in righting a wrong: @TPS51Div officer’s comment simply wrong. You cannot get HIV/AIDS from spit. We’re #sorry,” the first post read Wednesday evening on the Toronto Police Service’s main Twitter account.
“3rd step in righting a wrong: A Professional Standards/Internal Affairs investigation into @TPS51Div incident is underway.”
The comment was made after Waseem Khan filmed part of an assault suspect’s arrest. The male suspect was wanted after police said they received a report that he spat on a staff member at a nearby homeless shelter. A female officer later found the man and he then allegedly spat on her and punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground, police said Tuesday evening.
The video, which showed the arrest after the two alleged incidents, appeared to show an officer Tasering and planting his foot on the male suspect as he yelled, “Stop resisting,” before two other officers threatened to seize Khan’s phone.
A male officer told fellow officers to, “Get that guy out of my face, please,” while pointing at Khan, who was standing on a sidewalk a short distance away from police.
A female officer then walks toward Khan and waves at him. As Khan and officers move back, he told police he’s a witness.
“OK, well if you’re a witness then we’re going to be seizing your cellphone,” the female officer said.
Before the video ends, a second male officer said, “He’s going to spit in your face, you’re going to get AIDS. Stop recording or I’m going to seize your phone as evidence and then you’re going to lose your phone.”
It was a comment that “really disturbed” Khan.
“They obviously viewed this person in a certain way and it’s evident through this officer saying that, ‘He’s going to spit on you and you’re going to get AIDS,’ like he’s some sort of disgusting person. I don’t know if the officer knows this, which he should know, is that you don’t get AIDS from someone spitting on you,” he told Global News Tuesday evening, adding he thought the use of force by officers “was very excessive.”
“It’s just really disgusting and it really bothered me to see the way that he spoke about it.”
Khan was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening but previously said he wants to see the officers involved held accountable for what happened and called for “systemic change.”
Meanwhile, reaction to the first tweet with the apology was mixed with many retorting back to police.
However, some people were appreciative of the post.
Some Twitter users questioned police about the threatened seizure of Khan’s phone.
On Wednesday evening, police only addressed the comments the officer made about AIDS. But Toronto Police Const. Victor Kwong told Global News in an emailed statement Tuesday evening that professional standards investigators were reviewing the whole incident and that residents are allowed to film arrests.
“The message has been sent to officers that, in today’s day and age, people will have video recording capabilities. Unless they are obstructing, interfering, or otherwise prohibited to do so, they are allowed to record,” he said.