The provincial ombudsman says Toronto should ensure its next police chief understands that he or she must answer to a board on both operational and policy matters.
"Right now, there is a window of opportunity that has been opened, a golden opportunity to build in accountability to the civilian board as a condition of employment," André Marin told CBC Radio's Metro Morning today.
Marin said that police chiefs and boards have traditionally recognized a wall between oversight of operation and policy issues, even though a report from retired judge John Morden has asserted this is not correct.
"I'm saying, use the report, put it in your contract when you're hiring the new police chief," he said. "And if he or she feels that, you know, they can’t in all good conscience sign on the dotted line, fair game — move to the next candidate."
Marin said that "there's general frustration from all police service boards in Ontario" over these same issues.
"They basically feel that they’re powerless to give direction or to consult with their police chiefs over these important issues. The provincial government, as usual on these issues, has just sat on the sideline and watched the flares go off."
Search for a successor
The Toronto Police Services Board recently decided not to extend Chief Bill Blair's tenure beyond a second term.
That means that Blair's time is up at the end of April and the board must launch a search for his successor.
Marin has penned an op-ed that ran in the Toronto Star on Wednesday, which alleged Blair had demonstrated a "disdain for civilian oversight."
Asked about this assertion on Metro Morning, Marin pointed to a report that he had conducted as ombudsman, which reviewed scores of letters that were sent to Blair from the former head of the SIU.
"We catalogued over 80 letters written by [former] SIU director Ian Scott to the chief of police of Toronto, documenting breaches of the Police Services Act, problems with witness officers trampling the scene, not doing their notes on times, these kinds of things, with no response," he said.
"You would think a police chief should be held responsible for the actions of his police officers who are alleged to have broken the law during SIU investigation and that should be in the contract and he should have to respond to the SIU at least."
The police board has not yet outlined the search process it will use for the next chief, though Marin said it should consider a wide range of candidates.
"I think all the options should be on the table," said Marin. "So, it could be within the Toronto police, outside the Toronto police, it could be a civilian, it could be someone from another country."