London Police apologize after ‘black face’ photo emerges on Instagram

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Photo posted on instagram shows London police Const. Katrina Aarts, right, and an unidentified woman in brown body and hair paint. - Instagram

On behalf of myself, the London Police Service and Cst. Katrina Aarts, I would like to apologize to all Londoners and particularly those in the Black community. The photos that were posted to social media of Cst. Aarts are clearly offensive and inappropriate.

The investigation by our Professional Standards Branch into any violations of the Police Services Act – which governs the conduct of serving police officers – has been completed. It has been determined this incident occurred in 2006, a full decade before Cst. Aarts joined the London Police Service.

However, that does not mean it has not been taken very seriously by both the organization and Cst. Aarts. Prior to the completion of the investigation, she took full responsibility and immediately offered to write a letter of apology which I will read in a moment. She is very remorseful and I believe the letter is heartfelt and genuine. She has also sought out cultural sensitivity and awareness training on her own and will take all related training the organization deems appropriate.

As part of the service’s regular in-service training that had already been scheduled, all of our employees – sworn and civilian – will take training in cultural sensitivity and racial awareness with a focus on the Black community. This training commenced two days ago; January 2, 2018.

Cst. Aarts’ choice of costume for a Halloween event 11 years ago was absolutely inappropriate. There is no question of that.

While I will condemn this act, in the nearly two years she has been with London Police, Cst. 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.

Racism is not acceptable in any circumstance. Dressing in blackface is not acceptable. It is a demeaning and racist action.

This is an important learning opportunity for both the police service and for 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 cooperative relationships.

I will now read Cst. Aarts open letter of apology.

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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