A police officer in London, Ont., has apologized for appearing in blackface as part of a "tribal" Halloween costume 11 years ago, an incident the force's chief called racist and unacceptable.
Const. Katrina Aarts' actions were the subject of an internal investigation that determined the incident took place in 2006, before she became an officer, Chief John Pare told reporters on Thursday as he also issued an apology for what happened.
Several photos of Aarts with her face painted brown and coils around her neck, which were taken years ago, were posted on her sister's Instagram account last week, the force said.
In a letter of apology from Aarts that was read out by Pare at a news conference, the officer wrote that she took full responsibility for her actions.
"At the time, I did not recognize the racial implications when choosing this costume," Aarts wrote in the letter. "However, sitting here today, I am now forever remorseful for this decision."
Aarts wrote that she has sought out training on cultural sensitivity and wanted to ensure such an incident didn't happen again.
"I am putting this out to the community to apologize and explain the efforts I have taken and will take to be an ambassador of change within the London Police Service," she wrote. "I apologize greatly for any hardship that this has caused London Police Service, as well as any member of the public that has been emotionally effected or offended."
Pare said the entire incident was taken very seriously.
"I would like to apologize to all Londoners and particularly those in the black community," he said. "The photos that were posted to social media of Const. Aarts are clearly offensive and inappropriate."
All London police employees are receiving training in cultural sensitivity and racial awareness with a focus on the black community, Pare said.
"Racism is not acceptable in any circumstances," he said. "Dressing in blackface is not acceptable. It is demeaning and a racist action."
Pare also said, however, that during her nearly two years with the force, Aarts "has shown herself to be an excellent police officer and highly engaged in the community."
"She is very remorseful," he said. "I believe the letter is heartfelt and genuine."