More interim than expected: Police chief terminates contract after 2 days
New Ottawa police board chair El-Chantiry reassures public after 'stormy meeting'
The former police chief and high-ranking Ontario official who signed a contract just two days ago to replace Peter Sloly at the helm of the Ottawa Police Service won't come to Ottawa for the temporary position after all.
Matt Torigian has written to city council and the Ottawa Police Services Board saying he would terminate his two-day-old contract, and not seek compensation, after Wednesday's council meeting where councillors and the mayor fiercely objected to not being told of the hire.
Coun. Diane Deans was chair of the police board earlier this week when Sloly resigned amid criticism of the handling of protests that have occupied Ottawa's downtown for weeks. The board knew the force's executive command was thin after Sloly's departure, said Deans, and Torigian was hired to help bolster the executive ranks in Ottawa during the crisis.
Torigian, a former police chief of Waterloo Region, wrote that Deans had asked him to remove himself from his private life and "play an active role in assisting the city of Ottawa at a time of crisis."
"My sincere desire in accepting this request was to help restore order in Ottawa and increase confidence in the Ottawa Police Service," he said.
"Achieving this objective is clearly something that requires the support of the people of Ottawa as expressed by city council. Events in the past two days have made it clear that this support is lacking. I wish the people of Ottawa a speedy and safe resolution of the challenge before them."
Watson preferred Steve Bell as interim chief
Mayor Jim Watson said Wednesday night the board had signed a "sole-source contract" without public consultation, while he and many of his allies preferred Steve Bell remain in the interim role for the morale and stability of the force.
My sincere desire in accepting this request was to help restore order in Ottawa and increase confidence in the Ottawa Police Service.- Matt Torigian
Deans argued the police services board alone had authority to do such hiring under provincial legislation and admonished her municipal council colleagues: "you're sticking your nose where it doesn't belong."
Nonetheless, council then voted Deans off the police services board, while councillors Rawlson King, Carol Anne Meehan, and citizen board member Sandy Smallwood resigned.
During Wednesday's meeting, Coun. Jan Harder had called it irresponsible for the police board under Deans to "hire some random guy who hadn't policed in eight years, without any consultation."
Watson also questioned why the board hired an outsider who doesn't know the community, and suggested Torigian was bringing costly consultants with him.
By Thursday morning, however, the mayor had spoken with Torigian and described him as a "distinguished former chief of police and senior public servant with a successful track record."
In a statement, Watson and Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, the incoming police services board chair, both thanked Torigian for withdrawing his services and his "extremely gracious handling of this difficult situation."
CBC did not receive a direct response for comment from Torigian. He had been named a possible contender to become a chief of the Toronto Police two years ago and served as police chief of Waterloo Region until 2014.
He is currently a fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
El-Chantiry becomes chair of police board again
El-Chantiry took over the position of police board chair without contest on Thursday, sixteen hours after Deans' removal. The rural west-end councillor also chaired the board for 12 years until 2018.
El-Chantiry made it clear Bell would remain firmly in control as interim police chief and he sought to reassure the public the newly reconstituted board would work together, and stay focused on getting rid of the weeks-long convoy protest downtown.
"You are the interim chief," El-Chantiry told Bell. "We need you to focus on the operation and need the membership to know there's stability here."
Bell agreed, and said that was the message he had been giving officers since the upheaval at their governing board.