Ottawa councillor called it "concerning & unwarranted."
A senior woman was doing tai chi in a popular Ottawa park with what appeared to be a sword, when police intervened on May 30.
The incident happened Monday morning after police say they received a call about a woman with a sword in Dundonald Park. An officer arrived just before 10 a.m. but encountered a language barrier with the woman who did not speak English fluently.
Some residents, who witnessed the incident, took to social media saying police were "unreasonably aggressive." Ottawa Police say the conversion was "animated."
Ottawa city councillor Catherine McKenney took to Twitter, saying the police response was unwarranted.
"I am very concerned about reports of an elderly woman removed from Dundonald Park by police for doing Tai Chi. I have asked for an explanation," they stated.
\u201cI am very concerned about reports of an elderly woman removed from Dundonald Park by police for doing Tai Chi. I have asked for an explanation. What I am reading is exceptionally concerning & unwarranted.\u201d— Catherine McKenney \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (they/them) (@Catherine McKenney \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (they/them)) 1653940656
Ottawa's Somerset Street Chinatown BIA responded to McKenney's tweet saying that multilingual services could have smoothed the event. Police say a Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking officer eventually arrived on the scene.
Ottawa police released a statement from Interim Chief of Police of the Ottawa Police Service, Steve Bell, who said a caller alerted police about a woman in a fenced playground wielding a 75-inch long sword.
"The officer attempted to speak with the woman but there was a language barrier and the discussion between the officer and the woman became animated," Bell wrote. "The officer asked the woman to sit on a bench while they investigated."
After the Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking officer spoke with the woman, police noted that the sword was a "collapsible device."
\u201cThe \u201csword\u201d was located and found to be a collapsible device. The woman was using it to do Tai Chi.\n\nIt was returned to the woman. There was no arrest or charge and the elderly woman willingly left the park without incident. She was not directed to leave. (7/14)\u201d— Ottawa Police (@Ottawa Police) 1654003067
Swords are commonly used in tai chi practice. Police say that no charge or arrest was made and that the woman willingly left the park. Police add that they did not instruct the woman to leave and that social media did not help to ease any misunderstanding.
"Often, there are misunderstandings on everyone’s part," Bell wrote. "Those misunderstandings can be amplified by information spread on social media and other conversations in the absence of the full picture."
Following the incident, police say they will be reviewing the initial 911 call.
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