Police board to change how public can speak at meetings

Hamilton’s police services board is revamping the way it handles public delegations after the grieving father-in-law of a man killed by police used the podium to tell the chief he should resign.

Changes called for after father-in-law of man killed by police demanded Chief's resignation

Norm Dorr holds up a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms outside a Hamilton Police Services board meeting. The board is examining its policy for public deputations after Dorr made a public presentation last month calling for Chief Glenn De Caire's resignation. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton’s police services board is revamping the way it handles public delegations after the grieving father-in-law of a man killed by police used the podium to tell the chief he should resign.

The board voted Tuesday to revisit how the public should be able to speak at meetings, including whether they should have to submit their presentations in writing ahead of time.

The move came after Norm Dorr appeared before the board in March and said Chief Glenn De Caire should release unedited incident reports of the shooting death of his son-in-law, Steve Mesic. He also said the chief should resign.

“Our employees were attacked and we did nothing,” said Madeleine Levy, a provincial appointee on the board, at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel absolutely awful that I sat silent, shocked by that vitriolic attack.”

I can’t believe I’m actually living in the country of Canada right now.- Norm Dorr

Under the current system, the board chair decides whether a delegation can appear. Coun. Chad Collins suggested the whole board should approve delegations, much like at city council.

The board’s governance committee will look into it and report back.

De Caire wrote a letter to the board about the March 17 meeting, saying Dorr’s presentation didn’t follow policy, and was filled with misstatements and inaccuracies.

“It is appalling that the board failed to intervene and allowed this to continue unchallenged once the content of the deputation became offensive,” De Caire wrote.

Jamie Anderson, president of the Hamilton Police Senior Officers Association, also wrote to the board.

“We…work very hard to provide the board with dedicated, respectful and loyal service,” he wrote. “As of late, we do not feel the same in return from the board.”

Called on chief to resign

The board is trying to censor its naysayers, Dorr said afterward. He's attended every meeting since September, when then-board chair Mayor Bob Bratina suggested he and his family leave to clear a space in the board room.

"I feel totally violated as a Canadian citizen," he said on Tuesday. “I can’t believe I’m actually living in the country of Canada right now.”

In his March presentation, Dorr named the officers involved in the shooting death of Mesic. He also cited several recent incidents of alleged officer misconduct, and called on De Caire to release the reports into Mesic's death.

“That’s all we want from you before you leave, and hopefully it’s soon,” he said.

Part of Norm Dorr’s presentation was a complete complaint about our chief and our service, and that should not be presented to the board.- Irene Stayshyn

About 25 people in the audience also called out as De Caire responded, shouting words such as “liar!” and “murderer!”

'They've censored me'

Dorr asked to speak to the board about Tasers and lapel cameras on Tuesday, he said, but he was denied.

“They’ve discriminated against me. They’ve profiled me. They’ve censored me,” he said. “The police and the board have put themselves above the Canadian constitution.”

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the board, said he rejected the delegation because he needed more information on what Dorr wanted to say.

It’s not about only wanting to hear good news, said Coun. Terry Whitehead. But the board should look at its policy to make sure it benefits both sides.

“If we get to the point where we’re sanitizing people what people say to the board, I don’t want any part of that,” he said.

Daily scrutiny part of 'customer service'

Member Nancy DiGregorio, a provincial appointee, said if people have complaints about individual officers, there are official channels to do it. Irene Stayshyn, another provincial appointee, also thought Dorr's presentation was out of line.

“Part of Norm Dorr’s presentation was a complete complaint about our chief and our service, and that should not be presented to the board,” she said.

Vice-chair Walt Juchniewicz, who chaired the March meeting and allowed Dorr's presentation, was less apologetic. One deputation shouldn't be enough to erode public trust in the service, he said. And public scrutiny is part of the job.

"Inaccurate, false and misleading statements and denigration are experienced by our front-line sworn members of the HPS on a daily basis, not just during a deputation," he said. "Where I come from, it is a part of customer service."

The Special Investigations Unit cleared the officers of wrongdoing in Mesic's shooting death. An inquest will happen later this year.

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