Community, city councillors urge Ottawa police to re-think patrol overhaul

Despite pleas from nearly a dozen public delegations, the Ottawa Police Services Board has accepted a report that outlines controversial changes to how some front-line officers should be deployed.

New model calls for some community, beat officers to be shuffled to patrol duty

Cheryl Parrott, of the Hintonburg Community Association, told the Ottawa Police Services Board Monday night that the proposed patrol changes will make the force more reactive than proactive. (CBC)

Nearly a dozen speakers — including three city councillors — addressed the Ottawa Police Services Board on Monday night to express their concerns with a report that outlines controversial changes to how some front-line officers should be deployed.

Despite their pleas for further consultation before a decision was made, the board accepted the report without any changes.

The new cost-saving model proposes shifting some community, neighbourhood and beat officers to front-line patrol duty.

The public delegations said Monday night that those officers have positive impacts on fighting everything from low-level drug trafficking in the ByWard Market to dismantling crack houses in Hintonburg. 

"This is a shift from proactive policing to reactive policing," said Cheryl Parrott, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of several communities, including Hintonburg and Mechanicsville.

She said the work of community police officers led to a noticeable drop in crime in her neighbourhood.

"The specialized units made the difference," Parrott told the board. "The beat officers … they could focus on a problem and find a solution, rather than responding to the same calls day after day ..."

New model 'not a done deal'

After the meeting, Parrot said she was disappointed and concerned that the board simply accepted the proposed policing overhaul.

Acting Supt. Mark Ford said plans for community consultations on the new model will be announced in May. (CBC)

But Acting Supt. Mark Ford said the plan is not finalized and that there's more work to be done.

"What we presented … was a model," Ford said after the meeting. "This is not a done deal … there will be further consultations, further work done within the organization to get us to a final stage. But of most importance is the community consultations."

Ford said plans for consultations will be announced in May. He also said he doesn't know yet how many officers will be shuffled.

That's news to Matt Skof, head of the police union. After Ford made his comments, Skof said 117 of his officers have been told they'll be re-assigned and that he hasn't heard anything different from the force.

"I would hope that means there's been a pull-back from their original position and you're going to see actual, true, genuine consultation where other perspectives are brought in."

'Take a step back,' says city councillor

Some say consultation should have happened earlier, including city Coun. Diane Deans.

Diane Deans, the city councillor for Gloucester-Southgate, said she worries consultations will come "too late." (CBC)

"I worry that the public consultation is coming way too late in the process," Deans told the board Monday.

"I would just implore you to maybe take a step back. Reflect on how important community policing is, how important the trust that we have built over years and years in the community is."

In an interview with Ottawa Morning on Tuesday, Ford reiterated that a final model hasn't been decided on, and said officers won't be reassigned until after community consultations.

"We had to work internally to develop a model so that we had something to bring for discussion and the community consultation, but there is the opportunity for the community to provide input, and to adjust the model if need be," he told host Robyn Bresnahan.

"We would be foolhardy not to take the community's input."