A Rama Police Services officer is under investigation following an email exchange with an APTN reporter regarding his coverage of an alleged assault involving her romantic partner.
Const. Dana Boldt, who is now subject of an internal investigation at Rama Police Services, emailed reporter Kenneth Jackson following his coverage of Bracebridge police officer Const. Scott Anthony’s actions in a court-obtained video from 2022.
The video shows Anthony attacking a Métis man, Ronnie Taylor, who has intellectual disabilities and was in custody at the Bracebridge OPP detachment.
“I would love to send you into a cellblock and have someone punch you in the throat and the mouth, and see how you handle it,” Boldt wrote to APTN reporter Kenneth Jackson last week.
In the video, Anthony is shown pinning Taylor to a chair and then a wall, ultimately winding up in a jail cell where Anthony punches Taylor “at least a dozen times,” APTN reported.
“You see (Taylor) come in, he's very docile, then all of a sudden, Anthony comes out of nowhere and just two-hands him on the back of a chair, hits him so hard the chair comes off the ground,” Jackson told OrilliaMatters. “So he provokes him right away, and it's clear that Ronnie's not doing anything.”
Following the incident, Taylor then collapsed, with no one coming to check on him over the course of the 40-minute video.
In the subsequent story, Taylor is identified as Métis in the headline, which Boldt took issue with.
“You conveniently mentioned in the title that Taylor is Métis, knowing full well that it will spark the idea in your readers that this is based on race,” she wrote.
Following Boldt’s email, Jackson filed a complaint with Rama Police Services.
“I took that as a threat – an immediate threat,” he said. “I wrote her back (and) said, ‘I will be contacting your police department today, who’s the best person to reach?’”
Jackson then spoke with Rama Police Services chief Jerel Swamp, who said the police service will carry out an internal investigation on the incident.
In her email, Boldt suggested Jackson deliberately put a slant on his coverage to make Anthony appear racist, accusing him of “causing more distrust between Indigenous people and the police.”
In further correspondence with APTN, Boldt noted Taylor is not visibly Indigenous.
Jackson said APTN routinely identifies Indigenous people in their stories, noting numerous family members of Taylor are “card carrying” Métis people.
“I work for APTN – the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network – hence Aboriginal,” he said. “We always identify whether someone's Métis, Inuit, or First Nation.”
“So we put in the headline, he's Métis,” he said. “There's nothing new about race there that I'm applying, and I’m not race-baiting at all.”
Jackson said Boldt emailed APTN prior to the story’s publication with concerns it would be made about race.
As per APTN, she identified herself as “status Algonquin” and stated that “we can all assure you that (Anthony) is the most respectful and least racist person that we know.”
That correspondence was forwarded to Jackson, he said, who replied that his reporting would be based on court facts.
“I write back, I said, ‘I can assure you that’s not the case; this story will be about facts before the court,’ and there’s a lot of facts before the court,” he said.
“I'm focusing on literally what the facts are before the court,” he said. “If you read my stories, I don't deviate between what's in the court records, and what's in the video itself.”
Jackson said the incident has been a stressful one to manage.
“I'm used to trauma, I'm used to stress. I didn't expect it in this one because it's a point blank thing – it's all in front of the court,” he said. “It's already there; I'm just retrieving it. To me, it was insane that someone would come after me, the messenger, when I didn't do any of this stuff.”
He has chosen not to pursue criminal charges at this time, but the Ottawa-based reporter said that might be different if he lived in the area.
“If I lived in Rama or in (that) area, I might pursue criminal charges,” he said. “I'm in Ottawa; the chances of me coming to Bracebridge again are slim, but I believe that if I was in the wrong spot, I'm gonna be in trouble.”
Rama Police Services declined commenting on the investigation to OrilliaMatters, but told APTN the incident is being taken seriously.
“As a chief of police, I expect professionalism from my members while on duty as well as off duty and any deterrence from that professionalism is a concern,” Police Chief Jerel Swamp told APTN. “Mr. Jackson’s complaint is being taken seriously and will be addressed.”
Earlier this week, the Canadian Association of Journalists spoke to the incident on Twitter.
"The CAJ is extremely concerned about this incident," they wrote. "Journalists have the right to do their jobs safely while challenging authority."
Jackson’s original story for APTN may be found here.