Kingston police have launched an internal investigation after an officer wrote a Facebook post saying people rallying against police brutality should also be protesting against those who resist arrest.
The investigation comes in light of a Facebook post published by Det. Brad Hughes last week following an explosion of protests over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Minn., on May 25. The protests, which have taken place in the United States, in Canada and around the world, have spoken out against anti-Black racism and police brutality.
Hughes started the post by saying he knew his remarks might be “controversial,” then went on to say those who died in police custody should share the blame because they resisted arrest.
“Had every single one of the deceased in the high profile cases in the US not resisted their arrest but instead complied, sat themselves in the cruiser and fought their case in the court room rather then the street, they’d ALL be alive today,” Hughes wrote.
Dr. Monnica Williams, the Canada Research Chair for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Ottawa, says the officer should be fired after reading the comments he posted to Facebook.
“I think he should lose his job for this,” Williams said Monday.
“He doesn’t represent the people, the people he’s supposed to serve.”
Williams, whose research focuses on ethnic minority mental health and psychopathology, said Hughes’s claim that Black people should simply allow themselves to be arrested without incident and fight it in court is missing the point — that racism often plays a part in both the arrest and the accused’s opportunities for a fair trial.
“We know that people of colour do not get fair or equal treatment under the law. We know every piece of the process is stacked against them,” Williams said.
In his Facebook post, Hughes argued that those fighting against police brutality are only laying blame on officers, instead of also holding the accused accountable .
“The main component which is 100% present in ALL incidents where someone was injured or died while in police custody regardless of what race is involved is that the accused was resisting arrest,” Hughes wrote on his Facebook page.
Williams called that comment “devastating.”
“For one, he can’t know for a fact that 100 per cent of the time people are resisting arrest. We’ve seen videos time after time of people doing nothing but laying there and having police come and catch them or kick them,” Williams said.
It’s also incorrect to say that all those who have died in police custody were resisting arrest. High-profile cases, like the death of Philando Castile and the murder of Laquan McDonald are just two incidents that show Hughes’s statement to be false. Castile was shot during a routine traffic stop just seconds after he informed the officer he was holding a gun he was licensed to carry, while McDonald, just a teen, was shot 16 times as he was walking away from police officers.
Hughes finished his argument saying people should be protesting the act of fighting against police and resisting arrest, rather than simply taking part in Black Lives Matter protests, saying that “black lives and all lives matter.”
“The issue is this whole trope ‘All lives matter,'” Williams said. “This is just all about deflecting attention away from the very real problems of Black people being brutalized by police and trying to reframe it in a different way that makes people think less about the real problem. Of course, all lives matter, that’s why they say it, because it sounds nice, but it isn’t nice. It’s actually a form of racism,” Williams said.
Although Hughes said he believes the officers involved in Floyd’s death should be held accountable, he argued that anyone who resists arrest, even if it results in their death, should also be held accountable.
“If you really want change you also better hold up a ‘Stop resisting arrest’ sign as well,” Hughes wrote.
Williams said not only should Kingston police fire Hughes for his statements, but others in law enforcement should stand up and speak out against them.
“That’ll be the evidence,” she said. “Are people willing to stand up for what’s right publicly, even when that means letting everybody know that somebody in power, another law enforcement person has said or done something wrong?”
Sgt. Steve Koopman said Kingston police became aware of the post last week and made Hughes take it down.
Koopman said the investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
“We don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We want to, number one, verify the account itself, the content of that. And then from that point, determine whether or not there’s any appropriateness to the officer’s actions and whether they may fall under an offense under the Police Services Act,” he told Global News in an interview Monday.
Koopman would not comment on Williams’ suggestion that Hughes be fired, but did say they were taking the incident seriously.
“The officer is aware of the seriousness. How quickly that we feel that this needs to be addressed, that the community expects something from Kingson police and that we’re going to look into this as quickly and as thoroughly as we can,” Koopman said.
Hughes himself said he has a comment prepared, but he needs to wait until his employer’s investigation concludes.
Koopman said if Kingston police does decided to reprimand Hughes, that he could faces anything from a written warning, to a financial penalty to possible termination.
“We have to look at a multitude of factors. Based upon the original content, the officer’s background, and how that potentially not only affects the organization, but the community as well,” Koopman said.
Global News sent several requests for comment to the Kingston Police Association, but has yet to receive anything back.