Ending violence against women is one of the top three priorities of Ottawa Police Chief, Charles Bordeleau. It's too bad some of those on the front lines, "didn't get the memo". In a world where more than 70% of female victims don't report harassment or intimidation, you would think those on the front lines would be more in tune with the need of victims. Sadly, from what I've seen and heard, it's not happening.
We have seen first hand what happens when those who reach out aren't taken seriously or just outright dismissed. Just look at Basil Borutski, the Valley man facing first degree murder charges in the 2015 deaths of three eastern Ontario women. The whispers in the town warned of violence and a path of destruction that left the Ottawa Valley reeling. No one would listen when they reached out. Remember, the mighty OPS finally arrested him in the far rural section of Ottawa near Kinburn.
So, when I get a message from a friend who lives near that area who has been dealing with intimidation and harassment, my ears perk up. It's the taped calls of her conversations with the Call Centre and a Staff Sergeant, that sets my blood to boil. Three calls placed to Ottawa Police to file a report and I'm dumbfounded to hear the call centre refuse to take a report, because the woman on the end of the line felt that it wasn't harassment. That my friend is dispensing legal advice with no authority. (Or legal credentials). The judgemental tone from the call centre is concerning. When someone dismisses a women's call for help, it's another form of abuse to pile on top of the original.
After asking to speak to someone in charge, my friend is transferred to Staff Sergeant Ansari. He listened to her story before telling her to file a report and drop it off. It seems it was too much of a bother for Ansari to open a new report. The audacity that left my jaw on the floor was when the Staff Sergeant told her the second time (he hung up the first) that he would only answer one question. I'm not sure how she was able to remain calm and polite in the face of obstruction. This is not the first time Ottawa Police have been called for a complaint here. I'm quite sure Ansari's response will likely wind up before Professional Standards, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant is the absolute lack of courtesy and professionalism by these people who serve the public, the taxpayer. What message does this send to women in Ottawa who in their time of need? She spent more than 40 minutes on the phone doing what police have been advising, which is to report it. I'm not sure how many women would have the resolve to keep pushing to file a report despite the front lines dismissing the concern.
I reached out to the Chair of Ottawa Police Services Board, Eli El-Chantiry and the basic message was if you don't like it the service, file a complaint.
We have long heard about the fears women have when reporting harassment and intimidation. This will not increase those numbers nor make it any easier for them.
Hey, Chuck. Might be time for another memo.