Ottawa

Chief Charles Bordeleau steps away for good

When he walks out of Ottawa police headquarters for the last time, Chief Charles Bordeleau will be confident of two things: that the officers he leaves behind have more support, and that they're better connected to the community they serve.

After 7 years as the city's top police officer, Bordeleau retires Saturday

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau ends his career in policing on Saturday. (Laura Osman/CBC)

When he walks out of Ottawa police headquarters for the last time, Chief Charles Bordeleau will be confident of two things: that the officers he leaves behind have more support, and that they're better connected to the community they serve.

Bordeleau ends his at-times tumultuous term as chief of the Ottawa Police Service on Saturday, retiring after seven years in the chief's chair and 35 years as a police officer.

He told CBC Radio's All In A Day this week that he's proud of the work he's done in that time — but also acknowledged the work is not over.

"I've always looked at this opportunity as a very small window to effect change," Bordeleau said.

It's been seven years since Charles Bordeleau became cheif of the city's police force. He'll join us to reflect on his career. 12:50

Diversity issues

When he started in the job in 2012, the force had a problem relating to the city's diverse communities, Bordeleau said.

The death of Abdirahman Abdi during a violent arrest in 2017 particularly stressed the relationship between those communities and police — but the force has been working hard ever since, Bordeleau said, to improve things.

One of the arresting officers, Const. Daniel Montsion, was charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon following Abdi's death.

"That, I think, was a significant event in our community that tested that trust," Bordeleau said. "We committed with resolve to continue building those relationships, and we've been working very hard with the broader community."

While the force is trying to diversify its ranks, Bordeleau acknowledged that's not happening as fast as he would like.

"We changed a number of our policies ... and increased our training around a bias-neutral policing," he said.

"Ten years ago, having a discussion around racial profiling would not have happened at the Ottawa police service."

Mental health strides

When he first took the job, Bordeleau identified mental health concerns among the force as a significant concern.

He told All In A Day he believes the force has made real strides that stigma over the past seven years, and that officers are more comfortable than ever coming forward with their struggles.

"We've moved forward significantly in creating the right conditions for our members to seek help," he said.

As he steps away from a term that's included two fatal bus crashes, a pair of massive floods, last fall's tornado strikes and a shooting on Parliament Hill, Bordeleau said he was immensely proud of the officers he leaves behind.

"They care passionately about this community. They're compassionate. They're they show a lot of empathy and they want to help make this community safer," he said.

While his replacement hasn't been chosen yet, Bordeleau said that Ottawa's next police chief — whoever it is — will have a strong team of officers on their hands. 

"The team in place has the leadership capability to move forward," he said. "And the next chief will bring something new to continue building on what we've done."

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