Mayor, police leaders vow to keep 'bickering' out of public eye

Four men who have major roles overseeing the smooth operation of Ottawa's police force met Thursday morning in an attempt to work out their grievances and — as one of them put it — keep their "bickering" out of the public eye.

Met Thursday to hammer out 'long-standing grievances'

From left to right, Ottawa Police Services Board chair Eli El-Chantiry, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof and Chief Charles Bordeleau speak to reporters on Aug. 25, 2016, after a meeting designed to address ongoing issues within the police force. (CBC)

Four men who have major roles overseeing the smooth operation of Ottawa's police force met Thursday morning in an attempt to work out their grievances and — as one of them put it — keep their "bickering" out of the public eye.

Mayor Jim Watson called the meeting with Ottawa Police Service Chief Charles Bordeleau, Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof, and Coun. Eli El-Chantry, the chair of the Police Services Board in an attempt to open up dialogue and keep their disagreements to themselves.

"It's a meeting so we can go back and start positive dialogue, working together as a team ... instead of bickering through the media," said El-Chantiry after the meeting.

The meeting comes on the same day that Postmedia published a column by Skof that highlighted some of the issues he thinks need to be addressed within the police service, including declining morale amongst officers and a dissatisfaction with its leadership.

'Best interest' to meet more

In addition to Skof's comments about the force's leadership — which came after Bordeleau was cleared in a conflict of interest case related to the handling of a family member's traffic ticket — he has also called on El-Chantiry to step down as head of the police board.

After today's meeting, however, all four men agreed to meet regularly and keep those sorts of discussions behind closed doors.

"Out of fairness to our men and women in uniform and to the taxpayers of Ottawa, it's in our collective best interest ... to open up dialogue on a much more frequent basis so that we can actually better understand the legitimate concerns the chief has, the officers have and members of the public [have]," said Watson. 

Watson was tight-lipped about what exactly was discussed at the meeting, but he said he's committed to working on "long-standing grievances" that have plagued the police service.

"Obviously there are some long-standing grievances that have been bubbling at the surface for some time. And it's our job, as leaders within the community, to do what we can to minimize those," Watson said.

Not a 'love-in' 

"[There will] be some issues we'll never agree on, and we'll have to accept that. But there are others ... I think we can address properly."

While the discussion was frank and positive, it also "wasn't a love-in," Watson added.

Skof agreed with the mayor's assessment, calling it the meeting "a very difficult conversation."

"There are issues that are outstanding," Skof said. "We're hopeful in the next coming weeks that we're going to see some actions."

Bordeleau also described the meeting as candid and productive. 

"From my perspective, this is about our members. This is about our community. And this is about trust and confidence," the police chief said.

"Our members have a very difficult job, and it's been compounded by some of the very public discussions that have been taking place within the media. We all agree that these conversations have no place in the public forum."