The debate over police use of reinforced tactical gloves is raging in full force in Ontario.
An unfortunate Ontario police case has resulted in a death and a police officer being charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.
The strange thing about the case is the weapon Ottawa police officer Daniel Montsion is charged with using is a pair of gloves. But it isn’t an ordinary pair of gloves. The gloves in question are referred to as “assault gloves” because of hard carbon fibre reinforced plating in the knuckles and fingers.
The term “assault gloves” is one given to them by the company that makes them. They are manufactured by a company called Oakley Standard Issue, which sells tactical gear to military and law enforcement agencies out of California, according to their website.
The charges against Montsion began last July when Montsion and another officer responded to a call at a Hamilton coffee shop. It was there that 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi was allegedly groping people inside.
Another article by CBC News reports Abdi had unspecified mental health issues. When the officers attempted to arrest him, allegedly, a scuffle ensued. It was then that witnesses say Montsion used an excessive amount of force when he punched Abdi twice in the head.
Abdi allegedly quit moving after the blows and died at a hospital the next day. The entire incident was caught on cell phone footage. Stills from the video clearly show the gloves Montsion was wearing at the time.
Focus immediately shifted to the construction of the gloves the officer used. The gloves could now be considered a weapon for the charges he’s facing.
A representative for Oakley Standard Issue told CBC News the gloves are made of a different material, but could be thought of as being similar to brass knuckles. They are often used by military and police forces. She also said the gloves could potentially be used to break in glass windows because of the carbon fibre material in the knuckles.
The case has caused Ontario’s minister in charge of law enforcement, Marie-France Lalonde, to call for an audit of the gloves being used across the province. Not only does she want to see if departments often use the gloves, but there is now talk about possibly regulating their use by officers as an official police weapon.
The Ottawa police said some units are issued reinforced gloves like Montsion was wearing for direct action response for gang activity and guns. The CBC reports he was assisting those units the day the attempted Abdi arrest took place.
Some law enforcement agencies are distancing themselves from the issue. Hamilton’s police department says they don’t issue those gloves to their officers.
“I can say that the hard carbon fibre-plated gloves … are not gloves issued by the Hamilton Police Service,” Hamilton Police Constable Stephen Welton told CBC News. “Nor is any member of the Hamilton Police Service authorized to use those gloves in the course of their duties.”
Some believe specific training needs to be in place if officers are going to be using these types of gloves.
“It’s no different from a baton or handcuffs or any other weapon – pepper spray, for example – that the officer might have to use,” University of Ottawa criminology professor Michael Kempa told CBC News.
As the investigation of this case continues, Montison has been released, but is not allowed to possess any weapons including gloves like the ones used in the case.