A petition calling for the end of the practice of suspending Ontario police officers with pay while they're being criminally investigated has cropped up online.
The petition posted at thepetitionsite.com launched just days after a Windsor, Ont., police officer was arrested and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. U.S. officials allege Const. David Bshouty was attempting to bring three grams of cocaine into the U.S.
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Bshouty is now the fourth member of the Windsor Police Service are currently suspended with pay.
Ontario is the only province in which it's mandatory for suspended police officers be paid.
In other provinces, police chiefs have the discretion to suspend an officer with or without pay.
In Ontario, suspended officers are paid until their case runs its course through the justice system.
"Such inquiries usually last several years during which these suspended police officers sit home and draw 6 figure salaries for literally doing nothing," the petition reads. "There is no recourse to getting that money back even after the office was found guilty."
Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick is a member of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. The group has been lobbying the province since 2007 to have more control over their own personnel, including the ability to revoke pay to suspended officers.
"That is something we have been lobbying for long and hard; changes to the provincial legislation," Frederick said. "It has nothing to do with police officers making these rules up. this is provincial legislation that we are governed by."
In some provinces a suspended officer gets their full pay for the first 30 days of the suspension, then whether they continue to be paid after that is up to the chief.
The Ontario Police Act mandates suspended officers be paid. Under Ontario's Police Services Act, the only circumstance in which a police officer doesn't get paid while suspended is if he or she is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment.
If an officer is convicted of a crime but doesn't have to serve time behind bars, they remain suspended with pay until they can be fired through the police disciplinary procedure. The same process applies to officers internally charged with misconduct.
If the officer appeals their termination, it can be delayed for months, even years.
The Windsor Police Association, the union representing officers in Windsor, says the law provides a safeguard for officers.
"To give a chief the sole discretion on whether or not to suspend a member without pay provides a lot of power and could potentially be devastating to that member who is facing allegations at this point," union president Jason De Jong said.
De Jong says that while he's troubled by the seriousness of the allegations against Bshouty, none of the charges has been proven in court.
"We have had Windsor members that have been suspended, that have returned to work and would have suffered a tremendous financial burden if they had been suspended without pay," De Jong said.
$4.8 million paid to suspended officers
A 2008 survey by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police found 52 officers in the province were on suspension at that time.
Their annual salaries and benefits would have added up to about $4.8 million.
"The bar for the enforcers of law must be higher than it is for regular citizens and if they breach their conduct thye [sic] should be held accountable and penalized even while they are going thru [sic] the process of investigation," reads the petition, which has a goal of 1,000 signatures and is addressed to Premier Kathleen Wynne.
A person named Mirza Baig started the petition. Attempts to reach the creator were unsuccessful.
Frederick wasn't aware of the petition until CBC Windsor brought to his attention, but he said he supports the idea.
Frederick defends his officers, overall.
"That perception's out there that somehow this is indicative of all of us, and clearly it's not," he said. "We have 100,000 calls a year, we have over 1 million interactions every year with our community, through different mechanisms, and last year we had 40 public complaints - so it's a minuscule number."