Detective who made 'disgusting' meme gets temporary demotion

·3 min read

An Ottawa police detective who created and distributed a meme Chief Peter Sloly denounced as racist will receive a temporary demotion.

Const. James Ramsay pleaded guilty to one count each of discreditable conduct and insubordination under the Police Services Actfor making and sharing the meme, which showed photos of 11 current and former Ottawa Police Service officers along with the caption: "Ottawa Police Service — We're always hiring … anyone."

Terence Kelly, a retired deputy chief of the York Regional Police, said in his judgment he accepted Ramsay's guilty pleas and ordered that he be demoted from first class constable to second class constable for a period of nine months. Kelly also ordered Ramsay to participate in a "healing circle" within three months as part of a restorative justice process designed and led by a designated elder.

Ramsay was suspended in May 2020 after two versions of the meme circulated among members of the police community on social media. Both depicted current and former Ottawa police officers who had been accused or found guilty of misconduct. Most appeared to be men of colour.

At a meeting of the police services board in April, Sloly announced he was launching an internal investigation to find the creator of the meme, which he called "disgusting" and an "overt act of racism."

According to an agreed statement of facts, the resulting professional standards investigation involved interviews with 82 people.

During the investigation, Ramsay admitted to creating and distributing the version of the meme showing 11 officers. The version Ramsay admitted he created was estimated to have spread to 13 recipients, while a second version of the meme depicting 13 officers was more widely circulated and estimated to have been seen by 500 people.

CBC
CBC

"Constable Ramsay maintained that his intent in creating the meme (Version 1) was not to marginalize racialized members of the OPS. He stated, rather, that the meme was reflective of his frustration with the amount of officers being disciplined recently within the organization," Kelly's judgment reads.

"Constable Ramsay further stated that he did not want to be labelled as racist as a result of the media attention associated to the meme. He apologised for his actions and admitted creating and sharing the meme was a mistake. He stated that he did not expect the meme to spread throughout the organization and was unaware as to who created Version 2 of the meme."

Ramsay said he chose the photos for the meme by Googling "Ottawa Police Charged." He admitted to sending it to four officers through a WhatsApp chat group, and to another officer via text message.

Kelly said in his ruling that while he had received a number of letters of support attesting to Ramsay's strong character, the officer's actions were "clearly inappropriate" and "an embarrassment to the Ottawa Police Service." Kelly said he would have considered a stronger punishment were it not for Ramsay's guilty plea.

"Clearly, Police Constable Ramsay recognizes the mistake he has made and accepts full responsibility for his actions," the judgment reads. "Hopefully, he will become a better police officer and will utilize this experience to educate fellow officers so that they may avoid similar occurrences."