Ottawa

Police chief defends refusal to suspend senior officers under criminal investigation

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau is defending his refusal to suspend or transfer three senior officers under criminal investigation. It's a decision the police union president says hurts public confidence and the morale of rank-and-file officers.

Police union president says 'double standard' hurts public confidence

Ottawa police Chief Bordeleau denies he's giving senior officers preferential treatment in deciding not to suspend three of them being investigated by Ontario Provincial Police.

The allegations of possible obstruction of justice, fraud and evidence manipulation by three senior Ottawa police officers are so alarming that police Chief Charles Bordeleau asked an outside police force to look into it.

Yet, despite requesting the Ontario Provincial Police investigation, the three officers — with ranks of inspector and above — are still doing their regular work with no restrictions placed on them.

[Skof's] characterization that there is favouritism based on rank is as flawed and untrue as it is divisive.- Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof says Bordeleau's decision not to suspend or transfer the executive members under investigation has angered junior officers, who view it as preferential treatment.

Bordeleau defended his decision for the first time Monday evening in front of the Ottawa Police Services Board, the oversight body that has the authority to force him to impose disciplinary measures.

"There is an allegation that there is a double standard and that the process is unfair and that is simply untrue," said Bordeleau.'

The chief told board members he's aware of the need to be "consistent and transparent," but is limited in his ability to fully disclose the reasons behind his decision because of privacy and legislative restrictions.

Of 94 officers investigated, only 6 suspended/transferred

Officer suspensions aren't common, Bordeleau said. So far this year 94 Ottawa police officers have been investigated for violations under the Police Services Act and the Criminal Code.

Of them, only five sworn members have been suspended and one civilian member has been punitively transferred.

"It would be unfair for me as chief to use an allegation as a primary basis for suspension," said Bordeleau, who then accused Skof of being divisive.

"[Skof's] characterization that there is favouritism based on rank is as flawed and untrue as it is divisive."

This war of words began after criminal defence lawyer Michael Edelson wrote a letter to the chief alleging senior officers gave false statements to the Special Investigations Unit during its probe of a tactical training explosion. Five people were injured in the explosion and the subsequent SIU investigation led to charges against a staff sergeant and two sergeants.

Those charges were later stayed.

On Wednesday the Ottawa Police Services Board released a statement saying they were "unanimously satisfied" with Bordeleau's handling of the suspensions, finding no evidence of preferential treatment.

'Causes extreme prejudice'

Despite the chief's defence of his actions, Skof said Bordeleau's history of meting out discipline shows that he's protecting senior officers at the "expense of public confidence and officer morale."

"There are scenarios where officers of junior ranks have been suspended for identical, and I would argue far less serious, allegations. But for senior officers you're not seeing administrative reassignments, let alone suspensions," he said.

The chief's refusal to suspend senior officers is perpetuating a cycle of hypocrisy while damaging the ability of the force to hold its members accountable, Skof added.

The three officers in the executive ranks being investigated by the OPP preside over large portfolios and are also responsible for recommending punishment for lower-ranked officers within their units found guilty of misconduct or criminal wrongdoing.

Skof refused to elaborate, but said he's seen multiple conflicts arise between junior and senior officers during the disciplinary process.

"These people are implicated in criminal allegations and it causes extreme prejudice against all files going forward. It taints the entire process," he said.

CBC News

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