Ottawa

Police union asks solicitor general for closer scrutiny of top brass

The head of Ottawa's police union has written Ontario's solicitor general asking for a special investigator to review the oversight of police leadership and the police services board.

Ottawa Police Association president says members have lost faith in investigations

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof is asking Ontario's solicitor general to review investigations and discipline involving police leadership and the police services board. (Idil Mussa/CBC)

The head of Ottawa's police union has written Ontario's solicitor general asking for a special investigator to review the oversight of police leadership and the police services board.

The Aug. 16 letter obtained by CBC News is signed by Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association.

"We see situations too often where issues involving senior managers, or the chief's inner circle, were not investigated," the letter said.

The letter said members of the Ottawa Police Service have become so discouraged that investigations would be "dismissed with a troubling predictability, notwithstanding evidence to the contrary," that they've come to believe "you can't beat city hall."

Skof said he wants the Solicitor General to shine a light on the "double standard" in oversight.

Investigations fell short

The letter outlines historic investigations by the Ontario Provincial Police, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission — probes Skof argues fell short. 

Some of the incidents highlighted include the 2014 incident during a training exercise of the tactical unit, former police chief Charles Bordeleau's intervention in his father-in-law's traffic ticket and the handling of Insp. Samir Bhatnagar's complaint of racial discrimination

Skof said the province's intervention with Durham police, including launching an inquiry and appointing administrator, shows there was an opportunity for better scrutiny. 

"What we're asking the Solicitor General is to have it reviewed and look at all the incidents that have occurred over the years — and they're still occurring — and put their mandate behind it," Skof said in an interview.

"Really, at the end of the day, we're not asking for anything more than the same level of confidence in our public oversight system than what the public expects. Right now, that's not the situation we're in."

Skof says he wants Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to put the weight of her office behind a review of the oversight at the Ottawa Police Service. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

Hoping for change

Skof said there's been no noticeable change since Bordeleau's retirement. In his letter, he names interim chief Steve Bell and both the current and former chairs of the police service board, councillors Diane Deans and Eli El-Chantiry.

Skof said he hopes there will be change under incoming Chief Peter Sloly, but said it won't affect the substance of his request to the solicitor general.

In January, the OPP charged Skof with obstruction of justice and breach of trust. Skof and the union filed a lawsuit against then chief Bordeleau over Skof's subsequent suspension from the service.  

The office of Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said late Wednesday it could not confirm whether it had received Skof's letter.

In a statement, ministry spokesperson Marion Ringuette said everyone in Ontario has the right to effective police service and effective governance of that service.

She said any concerns should be brought to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which handles disputes and complaints about oversight of policing and police services boards as one of its duties.

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