London's police chief backs changes to Ontario's policing laws
John Pare says in some cases, officers should be suspended without pay
London Police Chief John Pare says he supports all of the sweeping changes the Ontario government has announced to its policing laws, including the ability to suspend officers without pay.
The changes, announced Thursday, are being described as the most significant reforms to policing in Ontario in a generation.
Chief Pare told CBC's London Morning he's pleased to see the strengthening of police oversight.
Under the changes, the Special Investigations Unit will be able to investigate not just current but also former police officers. And the Office of the Independent Police Review Director will become the sole investigative body for public complaints against police officers.
Officers who don't comply with investigations could be fined up to $50,000 and sent to jail for up to one year.
"Strengthening the oversight, I think, was important. And that's about accountability to the public and clarifying mandates and some timelines on investigations, and more transparency. I think that was an important piece," said Pare.
He said giving chiefs the ability to suspend officers without pay — especially in egregious and longstanding cases — is "important … when we talk about accountability and confidence with the public."
The proposed legislation titled The Safer Ontario Act says only officers who are in custody or charged with a serious federal offence could be suspended without pay. Officers could not have their pay docked if they were alleged to have committed a criminal offence while on-duty.
However, Ottawa's police Chief Charles Bordeleau wants to take it one step further. He would like to have the ability to suspend without pay when serious misconduct is alleged about an officer whether he or she is on- or off-duty.
Officers would be able to appeal their suspension, with the opportunity to win back lost pay, under the proposed law.
Pare said he is also pleased to see municipalities will be required to develop community safety and well-being plans, giving them a greater role in preventing the need for police intervention in incidents involving vulnerable people, such as those with mental health problems or addictions.
"It's something that police have been talking about for a long time, that we're not the best service provider for those individuals, and so more collaboration (is needed) within the community," said Pare.
With files from The Canadian Press