Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay police not perfect but not in crisis, new acting chief says

The new senior officers in charge of the Thunder Bay Police Service addressed how they will face the "realities and challenges" facing the municipal service, and say that it's "business as usual."

Deaths of Josiah Begg and Tammy Keeash still being investigated, police said

Thunder Bay police's new acting chief (Sylvie Hauth - middle) and acting deputy chief (Don Lewis - right) spoke with reporters Wednesday. (Jeff Walters / CBC)

The new senior officers in charge of the Thunder Bay Police Service say it's "business as usual" as far as its day-to-day operations.

Acting Chief Sylvie Hauth, Acting Deputy Chief Don Lewis and police services board chair Jackie Dojack spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon at police headquarters in Thunder Bay, Ont. Hauth and Lewis were officially named to their new positions on June 2.

The police service is facing a number of issues, including being subject to a "systemic review" by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director over the way they treat the deaths of Indigenous people, plus criminal charges against Chief J.P. Levesque for allegedly disclosing confidential information concerning Mayor Keith Hobbs.

Indigenous leaders in the northwest have also called for the RCMP to be brought in to investigate the deaths of three people found dead in the McIntyre River. Two of them, teenagers Tammy Keeash and Josiah Begg, were last seen on the same night in May.

"To say that we're in challenging times would be an understatement," Hauth said. "I would like to assure everyone that the men and women of the Thunder Bay Police Service are doing their duty to serve and protect everyone who visits Thunder Bay or calls Thunder Bay home."

Hauth added that Thunder Bay police doesn't believe that bringing in the RCMP is a "practical or necessary action to take" in light of the ongoing OIPRD review, which includes Keeash's and Begg's deaths. She added that police are "fully co-operating" with the director.

Hauth acknowledged that the local service is not perfect, but maintained that it is not in a state of crisis.

"We understand the concerns that are being raised," she said. "The [student deaths] inquest, for example, was a very thorough process, and highlighted some areas and recommendations. As a policing agency, we've taken those quite seriously."

She said, for example, the force has already looked at changing its missing person policies.

Begg and Keeash cases still open and 'being actively investigated'

The deaths of Keeash and Begg continue to be "actively investigated," Lewis said but as of Wednesday, "there is no evidence to link another person or group as being responsible for the deaths of either Tammy Keeash or Josiah Begg."

After the post-mortem was completed when Keeash died, police said there was "no evidence to indicate criminality" in her death. Lewis said on Wednesday that doesn't mean it has been ruled non-suspicious.

"It doesn't rule out the fact that at any point during the investigation that someone could come forward, another piece of evidence could arise," he said. "But up to this point, there's no evidence to suggest that with either case."

Police are still welcoming more information on those deaths, Lewis added.