Pause search for Thunder Bay police chief until after board investigation, mayoral candidate says

One of the mayoral candidates in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the city's police services board should hit the pause button on its search for a new police chief until after an investigation into the board's conduct is complete.

Bill Mauro says release of Sen. Murray Sinclair's report may shake confidence in board's ability to hire

Thunder Bay mayoral hopeful Bill Mauro says the police services board should suspend its search for a new police chief until the report of an investigation into the board is complete. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

One of the mayoral candidates in Thunder Bay, Ont., says the city's police services board should hit the pause button on its search for a new police chief until after an investigation into the board's conduct is complete.

"If they move forward and hire a new chief, a position that's going to be leading our police service for five to 15 years, and then the report follows that hiring and if it's negative, I believe it puts the chief of police in a very difficult position," Mauro said.

The board has been under investigation since 2017 by retired judge and current Canadian senator, Murray Sinclair. The probe was launched after the commission said it became concerned over the state of civilian police oversight and the public confidence in the delivery of police services in Thunder Bay.

The investigation came after a series of deaths involving Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay, with two of the most notable cases being the May, 2017 deaths of Tammy Keeash, 17, and Josiah Begg, 14. Their bodies were found roughly two weeks apart in a waterway. ​

Part of the investigation was looking at the board's role in making sure that policing in Thunder Bay is representative of the communities the force serves and that there is cooperation between the police service and those communities.

"We don't know for sure what [the report] will say but if it is extremely negative in terms of the historical administration by the board or the police service, I think it requires a pause," Mauro said.

The municipal election in October could also change the composition of the police services board, Mauro said, which is another reason he'd like to see the search halted for now.

Board intends to 'fulfill this responsibility'

It doesn't appear that there will be any pause in the search for a new chief.

"At no time has [the civilian police commission] suggested that the police services board should do anything less than
fulfill all of its roles and responsibilities," board chair Jackie Dojack said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

"Key among those is the appointment of the chief of police. The board intends to fulfill this responsibility."

The board officially announced in August that it was starting its search for a new chief. Over 550 people responded to a survey that sought public input into the hiring process.

With files from Cathy Alex