Police throughout Ontario are expressing concern that reinforced gloves used by some officers could be considered weapons, according to the head of the group representing police in the province.
Questions about the use of reinforced gloves are being raised following the death of Abdirahman Abdi last July after a confrontation with Ottawa police.
Const. Daniel Montsion is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon, which were laid last week by Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.
A police source close to the investigation said the gloves are central to Montsion's assault with a weapon charge.
'It's a concern': Police Association of Ontario head
Bruce Chapman, the president of the Police Association of Ontario, said many members of his group are expressing surprise that the gloves might be considered a weapon.
Chapman says most officers consider them a form of protection from weapons or as a tool to gain entry and that there is no specific training on their use.
He said his association plans to discuss the use of the gloves at a board meeting next Tuesday and said it's an issue he hopes to discuss with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
"I'll be reaching out … to see if they have a board position or position on gloves, either in training or the issuing of any type of gloves," Chapman said.
"It's a concern and it's a legitimate concern for officers … [that] wearing protection on your hands would be considered a weapon. So there's concern in the membership as I'm sure there are in the police service as well about officers wearing gloves," said Chapman.
Anti-gang squad members issued gloves
Cellphone video footage of Montsion crouched beside an unconscious Abdi just minutes after the confrontation shows the constable wearing what looks to be a set of Oakley Standard Issue "assault gloves," with the Oakley insignia clearly visible.
The assault gloves, manufactured by Oakley, feature a thick piece of carbon fibre over the knuckles, among other modifications.
According to a police source, Montsion was issued the gloves in his role as a member of the police force's direct action response team, or DART, which monitors street gang activity for the guns and gangs unit. Montsion was assisting patrol officers the day the confrontation took place.
The Ottawa Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry wrote in an emailed statement that the board does not have a policy specific to reinforced gloves.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau has refused to comment on the issue, saying the matter is now before the courts.
Ottawa police order audit of gloves issued
But CBC News reported Tuesday that Ottawa police CFO Jeff Letourneau sent a letter to Ottawa police inspectors on Monday, advising them that Bordeleau wants an audit of all gloves issued to officers for on-duty use.
The letter, obtained by CBC, states that the force's quartermaster has already documented all gloves issued through it, but that "several sections" within the force have purchased gloves "directly without going through [the quartermaster].
"I am asking each of you to review your respective directorates and document any gloves purchased directly by sections within your chain of command," the letter reads.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is responsible for approving weapons used by police in the province and establishes technical standards for them, said Tuesday that protective equipment, including gloves, are not classified as weapons and therefore don't need to be approved.