Windsor

Police board 'missed opportunity' for diversity with new appointment, says former councillor

City council's new appointment to the Windsor Police Services board isn't a diverse voice or someone from a marginalized community officers may interact with regularly, prompting a former councillor to say it's a major missed opportunity.

Amherstburg mayor also unhappy he won't have a vote on Windsor Police Services Board

Sophia shaking hands with Ronald.
Sophia Chisholm was sworn in as a new Windsor Police Services Board member in 2016 by Justice Ronald Marion. (Windsor police)

City council's new appointment to the Windsor police services board isn't a diverse voice or someone from a marginalized community officers may interact with regularly, prompting a former councillor to say it's a major missed opportunity.

This week, council voted to appoint Sophia Chisholm as its public appointee. Jo-Anne Gignac is now council's representative on the board. Both women were previously on the board prior to 2019. Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens will continue to be the board chair.

Former Windsor police board member and councillor Rino Bortolin said this could have been a chance "to give voice to groups that deserve a voice at the policing table."

"If we have had someone from marginalized communities, from the Black community, from the Muslim community, who was at that table ... to push issues," said Bortolin. "How are we holding the executives feet to the fire?"

Jo-Anne Gignac participates in a meeting for the Windsor Police Services Board in a 2018 file photo. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Chisholm is a senior vice-president at WFCU credit union with a "high level of privilege," said Bortolin, adding it's the broader community that will be affected by this decision. Chisholm has not responded to our request for an interview.

The role of the Windsor police services board is to provide governance for the police service, not interfere with operations. The board hires and fires the chief and deputy chief positions, is tasked with holding them accountable and oversees the implementation of policies.

As the former downtown ward councillor, Bortolin said his voice at the table was important because Ward 3 saw many of the calls for service from police relating to homelessness, drugs and many other issues..

"We've seen a huge shift in how we deal with social issues in our police service and I think some of that came from came from the persistent and constant pressure and questions from residents of Ward 3 and my place at that table," said Bortolin.

Rino stands on a street corner.
Former Ward 3 councillor and Windsor Police Services Board member, Rino Bortolin is criticizing city council's public police board appointment. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The province appoints two other members. Robert de Verteuil has been given another three-year term. But Denise Ghanam did not, and told CBC News she's unsure exactly why.

A spokesperson for Dilkens said the mayor did not have time to speak with CBC News about changes to the Windsor Police Services Board.

Amherstburg mayor not happy he doesn't get a vote

Another change is that Amherstburg's mayor will no longer have a vote at the table. When Windsor began policing the Town of Amherstburg in 2019, previous mayor Aldo DiCarlo had a seat and a vote at the board.

The new mayor, Michael Prue, said he's not happy he'll only be on the board in an advisory role.

"We thought we would be able to influence the vote. Now we're going to have to argue, by persuasion, what Windsor police should do to assist the town," said Prue.

Michael Prue sitting in front of a window.
Michael Prue was elected Amherstburg's mayor in 2022. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Windsor and Amherstburg signed a 20-year policing contract in 2019, but Prue said in the coming weeks the community will be having discussions about whether or not they want to continue that relationship.

"We have to give notice in advance if we want to opt out and go a different route," said Prue.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Viau

Journalist

Jason Viau is reporter for CBC News based in Windsor, Ont. He has an interest in telling stories related to accountability, policing, court, crime and municipal affairs. You can email story ideas and tips to jason.viau@cbc.ca.

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