A Toronto family is demanding a public apology and disciplinary action after two police officers were caught on a dashcam video mocking a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome during a traffic stop, saying she was only half a person and calling her "disfigured" and "artistic.”
“I am not those things. I am a woman,” Francie Munoz said.
‘We were very hurt’
The incident occurred on Nov. 5, 2016 in Etobicoke at Royal York Road and the Queensway, when Pamela Munoz, who says she had her two daughters with her in the car, was pulled over for allegedly running a red light.
She was given a ticket for making a left-hand turn on a red light. When Munoz told the officer that she planned to fight the ticket, he told her it was recorded on tape and that she could fight the ticket in court.
When Munoz obtained the video tape as part of the disclosure prior to her June court date, she heard the officers mocking her daughter, Francie, who had been sitting in the back seat
“That’s when I heard all of the derogatory terms [the police officers] used to describe Francie,” she said. “You know, that she was a half person, disfigured… that he would be using the word ‘artistic’ to describe people that are different, meanwhile laughing, making fun in between.
“We were very hurt. I was absolutely enraged.”
But what’s especially upsetting, Munoz says, is to hear those words coming from police officers.
“That is something we have always told Francie. The police, you can trust them,” she stated. “If you are ever in trouble, you need help, these are the people you go to and then you hear something like this and she’s not going to feel comfortable maybe approaching a police officer.”
Incident not a fair representation of the force: Saunders
Saunders met with the family at their Mimico home on Monday afternoon to formally apologize on behalf of the force.
“The men and women of the Toronto Police Service go out there and try to do a good job each and every day,” Saunders told CP24. “By no means is this situation a fair representation of what goes on a day-to-day basis.”
Following the meeting, Francie’s father, Carlos Munoz said he admired the chief’s courage for visiting their home and showing that he is a decent human being.
“We’re satisfied with what the chief is doing at this particular time, but when it comes to the apologies from the officers, we’ll have to talk about that a little later in terms of what we expect from them, what we want,” he said.
Family calls for public apology, sensitivity training
The family is still calling on the police officers to publicly apologize and demand they go through sensitivity training to ensure this doesn’t happen in future altercations between police and others with disabilities.
“We do know that the police are not all like that,” he said. “We understand that and we hope that this is just an isolated incident and that it will never happen again.”
For her part, Francie said she felt “relieved” after speaking with the chief.
“It felt good to talk to him,” she said. “He was very understanding with the problem.”
While the officers have not yet reached out directly to the family, Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said he has spoken to the officers and claims they are “very apologetic” and “embarrassed.”
“They want to do whatever they need to do to make this right. This is not what they’re known for, this type of conduct,” McCormack said. “They understand how inappropriate [it is] and want to rebuild the confidence and trust that has been lost.”
‘This kind of thing is profoundly unacceptable’
Mayor John Tory told CTV Toronto Monday that he had a chat with Francie’s father over the weekend to make it clear the city draws clear lines when it comes to behaviour of this nature.
“We just don’t live in a city where it’s permissible to make fun of or otherwise disparage people who are either different or who might have differing abilities in any way. So you just find this kind of thing is profoundly unacceptable,” Tory said.
He said he had a “good chat” with Carlos Munoz on Sunday night and told him that he hoped he could “see his way clear to get beyond this and to forgive whatever had happened.”
Munoz said she hopes this incident will serve as a reminder that more awareness and training is needed.
“As a parent, I’m still very angry,” she said. “Hopefully the Toronto Police Service will change some things.”