Canada London, Ont., police officer ‘forever remorseful’ for wearing blackface costume in 2006

14:36  05 january  2018
14:36  05 january  2018 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Katrina Aarts, right, dressed in a costume and blackface in 2006 , more than 10 years before she joined the London police force.Instagram. Katrina Aarts, who wrote in a letter of apology that she’s “ forever remorseful ” for the costume she donned before a 2006 Halloween party — more than a

'A police officer in London , Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a "tribal" Halloween costume 11 years ago, an incident the force's chief called racist and unacceptable. "She is very remorseful ," he said.

blackface-1: Const. Katrina Aarts, right, dressed in a costume and blackface in 2006, more than 10 years before she joined the London police force.© Instagram Const. Katrina Aarts, right, dressed in a costume and blackface in 2006, more than 10 years before she joined the London police force.

Anti-racism experts are raising eyebrows after a rookie London police officer whose photograph in blackface surfaced online said she wants to become “an ambassador of change” within the force.

Const. Katrina Aarts, who wrote in a letter of apology that she’s “forever remorseful” for the costume she donned before a 2006 Halloween party — more than a decade before she joined the force — won’t face punishment for her actions, which London police Chief John Pare on Thursday deemed racist and unacceptable.

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LONDON , Ont ., — Anti-racism experts are raising eyebrows after a rookie London police officer whose photograph in blackface surfaced online said she wants to become “an ambassador of change” within the force. Const.

A police officer in London , Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a “tribal” Halloween costume 11 years ago, an incident the force’s chief called racist and unacceptable. “She is very remorseful ,” he said.

While the apology is “laudable,” a spokesperson for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation said the reaction by the force smacks more of a public relations move than an effort to stamp out racism.

“(It’s) not adequate. There’s got to be substance behind the things that you do. There’s got to be meaning behind the words,” said Rubin Friedman.

As for the idea that Aarts could become an ambassador of change for the force, Friedman said: “She’s got a lot of a work to do.”

Mojdeh Cox, an anti-racism and human-rights advocate, formerly of London, said that ambassador badge is “ludicrous.”

“There’s more to this than just saying sorry,” she said. “It really is jumping a little too quickly in a direction she doesn’t deserve.”

“It has to be earned,” said Cox. “That ambassadorship is earned through practice.”

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She explains in the letter that she painted her skin dark brown and wore coils around her neck in a “tribal costume .” She says she is now “ forever remorseful ” for her decision. Aarts has shown herself to be an excellent police officer and highly engaged in the community,” Pare said.

Pare held a news conference Thursday to announce the internal probe into social media photos of Const. Katrina Aarts — The London Free Press broke the story about the posts — has been completed and the officer cleared of professional misconduct.

The photos of Aarts, painted brown and dressed in traditional African wear, were posted to Instagram last month by Aarts’s sister, said Pare, who read the apology written by Aarts.

“I apologize greatly for any hardship that this has caused (the) London Police Service, as well as any member of the public that has been emotionally affected or offended. I hope that you can accept this apology and permit me the opportunity to represent this organization in the most inclusive form in which I am capable,” wrote Aarts, who wasn’t at the news conference.

Aarts, who remained on the job during the probe, volunteered to take cultural sensitivity and racial awareness training.

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officer in London , Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a “tribal” Halloween costume 11 years “However, sitting here today, I am now forever remorseful for this decision.” “I apologize greatly for any hardship that this has caused London Police Service, as well as any

Of course, Constatble Katrina Aarts - 2006 was a different time! Who could possibly have known that cultural appropriation and mocking black people by making your Halloween costume a blackface “tribal” costume was wrong eleven-and-a-half years ago?

“I am putting this out to the community to apologize and explain the efforts I have taken and will take to be an ambassador of change within the London Police Service,” she wrote.

Anthony Morgan, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in human rights and race relations, cautioned against condemning Aarts. But he said the larger concern is about the relationship between London police and the African-Canadian community, especially in light of the long and violent history of blackface.

The practice, which dates back more than a century, is widely considered a way of ridiculing black people.

“The service is already deciding how it’s going to respond to an injury to the community without even consulting the community. I think there’s room to pump the brakes and reach out to the African community,” Morgan said.

London Police Chief John Pare called Const. Katrina Aarts’ 2006 blackface costume “offensive and inappropriate” but said she “has shown herself to be an excellent police officer.”

It’s far from the first time that racism has thrust the London area under a harsh public spotlight.

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A police officer in London , Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a "tribal" Halloween costume 11 years ago, an incident the force's chief called racist and unacceptable. "She is very remorseful ," he said.

London , Ont ., police officer ‘ forever remorseful ’ for wearing blackface costume in 2006 . Does intention even matter? How blackface in Quebec is an issue that seems to never go away.

As recently as last month, the N-word was scrawled in the fresh snow on a black family’s vehicle, and a Colombian immigrant family was threatened by a bat-wielding attacker who screamed “ISIS” and “terrorist” in a St. Thomas parking lot.

Two years ago, the N-word was also hurled at two black actors in the street while they were in London to appear in a play about civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Other episodes that drew unflattering national headlines for London included a banana thrown on the ice during an NHL exhibition game in 2011, as a black player skated in on the Detroit Red Wings goalie during a tie-breaking shootout.

“My concern is how the community that will encounter this officer will be left to feel about this. What is the impact on them?” Morgan said.

That’s exactly the focus of human rights law, he added — the impact of discrimination or racism, not the intent.

Coun. Harold User, one of two black members of city council, said Aarts hurt people with her actions, regardless of her intentions.

“I think it’s very, very important for whoever does things like this to recognize the fact that they hurt people’s feelings. They do it innocently, and they may not realize it, therefore they have to understand and be cautious that they don’t do it again,” he said.

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A police officer in London , Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a “tribal” Halloween costume 11 years ago, an incident the force’s chief called racist and unacceptable. “However, sitting here today, I am now forever remorseful for this decision.”

London Police Chief John Pare apologizes after a photo of Const. Katrina Aarts in blackface appeared online, on Thursday, Jan. "At the time, I did not recognize the racial implications when choosing this costume ," Aarts wrote in the letter. "However, sitting here today, I am now forever remorseful for

Usher said he’s satisfied with the officer’s apology and willingness to take sensitivity training.

“Sometimes we have to be gentle with this. I don’t know what else you could do,” he said.

“Maybe, we need to close this out as quickly as possible and get on with this. I’m definitely not going to call for her resignation.”

Friedman agreed, saying London police were in no position to discipline Aarts since the blackface photos were taken long before she joined the force.

The department’s police professional standards branch launched a probe last Thursday after Mayor Matt Brown, a police board member, received an email that included copies of the Dec. 3, 2017, Instagram post.

Arts won’t face a hearing under the Police Services Act, the law governing policing in Ontario that lets police forces hold disciplinary hearings into professional misconduct, said Pare, who also apologized Thursday.

“On behalf of myself, the London Police Service and Const. Katrina Aarts, I would like to apologize to all Londoners, and particularly to those in the black community. The photos that were posted to social media of Const. Aarts are clearly offensive and inappropriate,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

“While I will condemn this act, in the nearly two years she has been with London police, Const. Aarts has shown herself to be an excellent police officer and highly engaged in the community. I believe that her immediate willingness to take responsibility for her choice, apologize and take training demonstrates her character now.”

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Ont ., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a “tribal” Halloween costume 11 years “However, sitting here today, I am now forever remorseful for this decision.” Aarts wrote that she “I apologize greatly for any hardship that this has caused London Police Service, as well as any

Unrelated to the incident, the more than 800 London police employees, including roughly 200 civilian members, started cultural sensitivity and racial awareness training, with a focus on the black community, this week, Pare said, calling the blackface pictures a learning opportunity for police and the entire community.

“As we move forward, the London Police Service will continue to work with the many diverse communities in London, including the black community, toward productive and co-operative relationships,” he said.

LETTER OF APOLOGY FROM CST. KATRINA AARTS

On December 29, 2017, I was investigated for a posting that my sister created on Instagram. Although I did not have control over the posting of the pictures, I am taking responsibility for the content in the photos.

11 years ago, I dressed up in tribal costume with coils around my neck for Halloween. In preparing for this costume, I painted my skin dark brown. At the time, I did not recognize the racial implications when choosing this costume. However, sitting her today, I am now forever remorseful for this decision.

As a member of the London Police Service, I take pride in my reputation as a Constable and therefore have taken upon myself to ensure that this does not happen again by seeking out training on cultural sensitivity, racisim, bias stereotypes and the negative impacts of the same.

I am putting this out to the community to apologize and explain the efforts I have taken and will take to be an ambassador of change within the London Police Service. I will look for opportunities to participate in internal training of London Police Service members so that other members of the London Police Service may recognize the importance of such a powerful subject.

I apologize greatly for any hardship that this has caused London Police Service, as well as any member of the public that has been emotionally effected or offended. I hope that you can accept this apology and permit me the opportunity to represent this organization in the most inclusive form in which I am capable.

Sincerely,

Katrina Aarts

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