New suspension rules for police inadequate, coalition says

The Justice For Abdirahman Coalition is "ecstatic" about many of Thursday's proposals to strengthen police oversight, but critical of the fact that new powers to suspend officers without pay will not apply in cases where an officer's alleged misconduct happened while on duty.

Police chiefs would be able to suspend officers without pay only for alleged off-duty offences

Dahabo Ahmed Omer of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition is celebrating most of the sweeping changes proposed for police oversight, but said new powers for police chiefs to suspend officers without pay don't go far enough. (CBC)

A coalition formed in the wake of the death of an Ottawa man following a confrontation with police said it's "ecstatic" about most aspects of a new bill to strengthen police oversight, but critical of continuing limits on the unpaid suspension of police officers.

The plan announced Thursday would allow a police chief to suspend officers without pay if they're facing allegations of serious offences committed while off duty, but not if the offences are alleged to have happened while they were on the job.

Const. Daniel Montsion is facing criminal charges including manslaughter and aggravated assault in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi. The offences are alleged to have happened while Montsion was on duty, so even under the proposed new rules, he could not be suspended without pay pending trial.

"If it's not for officers that are on duty, and who are [the] primary officer in a case, then it doesn't go far enough, absolutely not," said Justice for Abdirahman Coalition member Dahabo Ahmed Omer on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning Friday.

She said there was some confusion in the community about the suspension rules in the hours after the bill was announced.

Const. Daniel Montsion is facing charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in the 2016 death of Abdirahman Abdi. (Still from YouTube video)

Reimbursed for lost pay

Ontario is currently the only province in which chiefs can't revoke the pay of suspended officers, who collect millions of dollars each year. Right now, suspended officers have to be paid even when convicted of an offence, unless they are sentenced to prison.

Under the new rules, if an officer wanted to fight a suspension, the matter would go to a disciplinary tribunal which would make the final decision.

If an officer were ultimately found not guilty of the charge they faced, they would be reimbursed for the lost pay, according to Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Marie-France Lalonde.

'Chilling' effect

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau said he had sought the power to suspend officers without pay when serious misconduct had been alleged either on or off duty.

The president of the police union disagreed with that stance, saying police should not face the threat of suspension for the use of force that's part of their job.

"If they were being suspended for those reasons we would have a significant impact on policing operations," said Matt Skof. "It would have a very chilling effect."

With files from Canadian Press