(Annie Pootoogook. APTN/File)
APTN National News
The Ottawa police officer who pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of discreditable conduct for posting racist comments about Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook was also directly in charge of the forensic evidence at the scene where she was found dead, it emerged Tuesday.
Sgt. Chris Hrnchiar was the direct supervisor of the forensic identification detective who processed evidence from the scene and identified Pootoogook’s body, according to information contained in the agreed statement of facts filed during Hrnchiar’s disciplinary hearing.
Pootoogook’s body was pulled from the Rideau River Sept.19 and Ottawa police immediately announced the death was not suspicious. Then on Sept. 23, the Ottawa police publicly identified Pootoogook as the woman found in the Rideau River and issued a call for information on her last movements.
On Sept. 24 Hrnchiar posted his racist remarks through Facebook in response to an online Ottawa Citizen story on this development.
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau said Hrnchiar’s personal feelings had little impact on the investigation. Bordeleau said the officer had “minimal involvement” in the investigation of Pootoogook’s death.
“We have checks and balances in place to ensure a proper investigation is being conducted,” said Bordeleau, in a statement sent to APTN. “I can assure the family and the community that a thorough investigation is being conducted.”
Hrnchiar posted that Pootoogook’s death “could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned, who knows.” He also wrote that” much of the Aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers.”
Hrnchiar on Tuesday pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct – one for the racist comments and another for speaking about an open investigation publicly—under the Police Services Act during a disciplinary hearing.
“I want to apologize to everyone sincerely for my actions… I am sorry for the hurt I caused,” said Hrnchiar, during the hearing.
Bordeleau called Hrnchiar’s comments “racist” during an interview with APTN. The police service also said the officer embarrassed the force and his fellow cops.
The force is seeking a demotion in Hrnchiar’s rank from sergeant to first-class constable for a period of three months. They also want him to receive multicultural training.
According to information provided at the hearing, Hrnchiar cooperated with the internal police investigation into his comments and admitted to making them.
Judgement was held over to Dec. 7.