US & Canada

Toronto police caught mocking woman with Down's syndrome

Francie Munoz (centre) with her mother Pamela (right) and sister Yasmine. Image copyright Pamela Munoz
Image caption Francie Munoz (centre) with her mother Pamela (right) and sister Yasmine.

Toronto police are investigating after two officers were caught on camera calling a woman with Down's syndrome "disfigured" and "different".

Police had pulled over Pamela Munoz for running a red light, but did not realise their microphones were on.

When Mrs Munoz obtained the recording to contest her ticket, she watched them mock her 29-year-old daughter Francie.

Now Francie says she is hoping a public apology will help people "be better" around people like her.

A police video recording shows that after pulling Mrs Munoz over for allegedly running a red light, two police officers began to mock her and her two daughters who were also in the car once they were out of earshot.

They can be heard saying there were only "two and a half" people in the car because the "young girl in the back" is a "little disfigured".

Image copyright Facebook / Carlos Munoz
Image caption Francie (second from right) pictured with her family

"Artistic... that's gonna be my new codeword for 'different'," said one police officer, laughing.

Mrs Munoz told the BBC that when she listened to the recording, at first she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"I was livid, I was angry, mamma tiger came out," Mrs Munoz told the BBC. "I was just extremely upset for Francie, and everyone who is like her."

Francie told the BBC that when she heard the comments herself, she was "sad and hurt" that they would say such a thing.

Active in her community, Francie already appears in several campaigns aimed at raising people's awareness about Down's syndrome.

Both the city's mayor and Toronto police chief Mark Saunders have personally apologised to the family.

Chief Saunders visited the family for over an hour to try and make amends, Francie said.

"He was great, he came over to apologise," Francie said.

Image copyright Pamela Munoz

Mrs Munoz said she does not want the police officers to lose their jobs, but she wants a public apology so that this can become a learning opportunity.

"We can't have policemen acting in this way, they should be held to a higher standard of conduct and compassion," she said.

She said she hopes the police force increases training for officers on how to interact with civilians with disabilities.

"We are sure that if they ever met Francie or any of her friends, they would realise what wonderful human beings (they are)," she said. "It's just ignorance."

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