A Peel Regional Police officer, who has also run for public office, is under investigation after allegedly posting Islamophobic materials to his Facebook pages.
Const. Michael Vertolli, a 19-year-veteran of the force, allegedly posted about a dozen videos and articles that painted a bigoted picture of Muslims, according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, which filed a complaint about Vertolli to Peel police. Vertolli also appeared to have shared other links that antagonize Black Lives Matter and left-leaning activists.
Screenshots from 2016 and 2017 posts on Vertolli’s personal Facebook page show that Vertolli allegedly posted a number of links with titles including “Civilization Jihad is Here,” or “SHOCKING video of Radical Islam in Canadian school.” All push Islamophobic ideas that Muslims, due to their religious beliefs, are a threat to peace and women.
Constable Sarah Patten, a Peel police spokesperson, said that they were informed of Vertolli’s posts recently and that “Professional Standards is currently investigating” him.
Vertolli spoke to VICE News briefly on the phone and declined to comment on the screenshots. When asked outright if he denied posting them, Vertolli hung up the phone. Later, he blocked me from seeing his personal Facebook page.
Peel Regional Police, Ontario’s second largest municipal police force after Toronto, has been under intense public scrutiny after an officer from the force gunned down 62-year-old Ejaz Ahmed Choudry in his home earlier this month during a wellness check. Choudry’s family says that he suffered from mental illness and was having a schizophrenic episode when the cops arrived.
Canada has faced a reckoning of sorts in recent weeks with Black Lives Matter-led protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism popping up across the country following the killing of Minnesota man George Floyd. Calls to defund police departments across the U.S. and Canada have become a central demand of BLM and other activists. Police officers in both countries have also come under fire recently for their posts on social media. One in Ottawa is facing charges for sharing racist memes and another in Belleville is facing calls to be fired after posts emerged of him wearing a Confederate flag shirt.
A look through Vertolli’s personal Facebook page and two public pages reveals that he appears to have been sharing provocative right-wing content for years.
On June 8, at the height of global BLM-led protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality, Vertolli shared a video on one of his public pages from the popular conservative commentator and comedian Terrence K. Williams titled, “Black Lives Matter is Based on a Leftist LIE.” (But Vertolli also posted a link a few days later calling for “Blue Lives Matter” merchandise to be removed from Amazon.)
He also went on a long anti-defunding police thread on his Twitter and retweeted a tweet that called RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki a "useless hag" and a "bitch" after she admitted systemic racism exists in the RCMP.
A post he allegedly shared days after a white gunman murdered six Muslim worshippers in the January 2017 Quebec City mosque attack insinuated that the victims had “strong ties to terrorism.” That particular post has since disappeared, but the others were still up as of press time.
Other posts include a video with controversial right-wing commentator Tomi Lahrens, as well as a video from right-wing pundit Daniel Prager’s PragerU (Prager University) YouTube channel, featuring anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali talking about how Islam is a violent ideology.
Still other posts are of articles from far-right outlets that feature Muslims ostensibly trying to shut down Oktoberfest in Germany or having their citizenship applications denied by Switzerland for “not assimilating with Swiss culture.”
“We are deeply troubled by the posts from the officer,” said Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “It is not too much to demand that officers on the streets, with guns and badges, do not explicitly hold discriminatory or distasteful attitudes towards any group of people.”
Vertolli is an active member in his Milton, Ontario community. His personal Facebook page lists him as the president of the Milton Santa Claus Parade and a member of the Halton chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2018, he finished third in Milton’s Ward 2 local councillor race.
A Constable Michael Vertolli is listed as making $123,000 in 2019 and $141,000 in 2018 from Peel police, according to Ontario public documents.
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