Police board shifts meetings to city hall to increase transparency

The London Police Services board is taking a big step toward transparency by shifting its board meetings from its headquarters to city hall starting in the new year.

The board approved the motion on Tuesday afternoon in a tight 4 -3 vote

(Chris Ensing/CBC)

The London Police Services board is taking a big step toward transparency by shifting its board meetings from its headquarters to city hall starting in the new year.

"I think it's very historic," said new board appointee Coun. Mo Salih, who pushed for the change that would also consider implementing a rotational schedule for the monthly meetings.

This means that beyond city hall, the meetings could also be held at other community venues, including the library and even back at the police headquarters.

"This removes some of those traditional barriers and some of those fears that people have had," said Salih — who used the example of people who may have had negative experiences with police related to sexual assault policy handing and arbitrary street carding.

"This is a way of us moving forward by ensuring that we are working in a place where people feel like they can come and have a conversation and not feel intimidated and not feel all these barriers."

The seven-member board approved the motion on Tuesday afternoon in a tight 4 -3 vote — which was preceded by plenty of discussion about logistical concerns.

Coun. Mo Salih was appointed on to the London Police Services Board. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Tight vote

The idea to shift police board meetings was first introduced at city hall last month — when council extended an invitation to all city boards and commissions to hold meetings at city hall.

Several board members raised questions regarding relocation inconveniences and whether or not moving away from the headquarters means giving up on the opportunity of making it more accessible.

"In order to make our building more accessible to the community and less intimidating in the community, we need to do more to make people feel more welcome," said board member Michael Deeb. "Let's not give up on using our headquarters here. It's an institution in the city and it's for the public."

Those opposing the motion, including Michael Deeb, Coun. Stephen Turner and board chair Jeanette Eberhard, were vocal of their support of transparency.

"There's a challenged relationship between police and some members of the community. I don't think this kind of move goes to help fix that. I think it goes to exacerbate that," said Turner.

"It says that the complete headquarters itself is a place that's not welcoming and it's not a place where people should feel comfortable in engaging with policy makers and leadership and its members."

However, new board appointee Vanessa Ambtman-Smith, who identifies as Indigenous, said the move is a big step forward.

"It starts to address some of the power and privilege dynamics that may be enforced in a place like [the headquarters].  We are looking at trying to minimize that power in ways that invites people," she said.

Ambtman-Smith voted to approve the chance, along with Mayor Matt Brown, Susan Toth, and Salih.

Steps forward

Board officials have also taken extra steps to ensure transparency by choosing to stream the public meetings online. For the first time, the meeting on Tuesday was streamed live and the full meeting agenda was made available to the public.

The next police board meeting will be held at city hall on Jan. 18 — that's when Coun. Jesse Helmer will fill Turner's seat.

About the Author

Hala Ghonaim

Reporter/Editor

Hala Ghonaim is a London, Ont.-based radio and digital reporter. You can reach her at hala.ghonaim@cbc.ca.