Thunder Bay·Audio

Support, oversight, criticism: Thunder Bay Police Services Board administrator outlines board role

During the first public meeting of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board since members were stripped of their voting rights by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, Thomas Lockwood, the Toronto-area lawyer appointed as board administrator, says the group must work to regain the community's trust.

Board will be trained to develop policies such as 'how you do an investigation' into a disappearance or death

Sylvie Hauth, (centre) chief of the Thunder Bay Police Service, confers with police services board chair Celina Reitberger (far left), administrator Thomas Lockwood (second from left) and Thunder Bay city clerk John Hannam (second from right). (Cathy Alex/CBC)

Thomas Lockwood, the Toronto-area lawyer appointed by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to act as the administrator for the Thunder Bay Police Services Board said Tuesday that the group must work to regain the community's trust.

It was the first meeting of the board since the commission stripped members of their voting rights, after a report conducted by Sen. Murray Sinclair concluded there was a lack of oversight and issues with systemic racism.

"We unequivocally acknowledge that there is systemic racism," said Lockwood on behalf of the board, adding that the board had failed the northwestern Ontario city's Indigenous community.

'Broken' relationship between city, police

He noted that both Sinclair's report, and another highly critical one from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) show "there is a real problem between the police service and the Indigenous community."

"It's broken."

When a trust is broken, repairs must be made and that begins with admitting "the past has occurred," he said.

"Then you have to move forward and say this is what we're going to do, this is how we're going to do it," Lockwood continued. "Once you've broken trust you don't get it back very easily."

"It's a long process and we're starting that journey now."

Lockwood also acknowledged the process will not happen overnight "but we're going to try."

'How you deal with missing, murdered person'

Part of Lockwood's journey with the board includes providing training on drafting appropriate policies to provide the necessary oversight, for such things as "how you deal with a missing and murdered person, how you do an investigation." 

Board members will also be be advised on how to improve communication with the public by building a website and possibly webcasting, and they'll be educated on the nature of the relationship between board members and the police service.

"There is a very special relationship between the chief of police and the board, which again, if you read the senator's report, perhaps the lines became a little blurred," said Lockwood.

Three-day training course required

The three-day training course, which will be known as the Thunder Bay Model and will be available to other police boards across Ontario, is being designed by Andrew Graham, a professor in the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, and by Fred Kaustinen, the executive director of the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards.

"We are supportive of the police, but we oversee things," said Lockwood describing the role of the police services board.   "We develop policies, we discuss things with them and when they go amiss, if they go amiss, we criticize them."

Anishinabek Nation hopes for 'new perspectives'

The training will be required of all board members, including those who still have to be selected to fill one vacant municipal position and one vacant professional position. Lockwood hopes the training, which is also being offered to the police chief and other senior officers, can be completed as soon as possible, with the goal of having the board's voting rights restored as early as February 2019.

Thomas Lockwood, the Toronto-area lawyer appointed by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to administer the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, says the board will receive training in writing policies to create the proper oversight of the police service. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The leadership of the Anishinabek Nation issued a written release on Dec. 18 in response to the reports by the civilian police commission and the OIPRD.

"My hope is that with a clean slate, the new board members will bring with them new perspectives, open minds and expertise to the table that will allow for open, honest conversations," stated Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare.

You can hear the full interview with Thomas Lockwood here.