Report from Ontario Civilian Police Commission directs Windsor police to address transparency and diversity
Former Toronto police officer says he is disappointed with the recommendations, wanted more
A report released Friday from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, after a two-year investigation, contains 37 recommendations to the Windsor Police Service and Windsor Police Services Board.
The 72-page report addresses racial diversity, the low representation of women on the police service and acknowledges there should be greater transparency in the hiring process for chiefs and deputy chiefs, among other issues.
It also recommends enhancing policies about how investigations concerning the chief or deputy chiefs are handled.
Former Toronto police officer Jake Shen said he doesn't think the recommendations are enough.
"It's a little bit disappointing to be honest," he said. "I don't think those recommendations [go] far enough."
He said the recommendations could have been more specific, especially in regards to how the police service can have more transparency in its hiring and promotional processes.
The lack of transparency, Shen said, "creates this problem, this curtain, that creates this perception of mystery and unfairness."
He added that this perception of unfairness can be "toxic."
One of the suggestions Shen said he would have liked to see is the service employing an independent third-party company to conduct recruitment interviews and review promotions so that these processes can be more objective.
Shen anticipated the report would have implications for policing agencies across the province, but now he says it was a "wasted opportunity."
"I think a lot of officers may also be disappointed...personally I thought it was going to be much more in-depth and more bold," he said.
"I think this is a wasted opportunity it could have been a wake-up call or a change for all police agencies across Ontario but unfortunately it did not go that far."
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), an independent oversight agency under the Police Services Act, began an investigation in May 2018 following multiple complaints from members of the Windsor police raising serious concerns about the workplace environment.
The initial complaints made between January and April 2018 cited concerns over "improper interference in specific legal proceedings," allegations of a "poisoned work environment," and transparency in the hiring and promotional process.
The investigation was also expanded to include how a 911 call was handled at the home of former Windsor police chief Al Frederick in November 2018. The call and investigation was first reported by CBC News, several months after the incident, citing concerns about the lack of transparency by the police service.
The report says that the incident raises " important systemic issues."
"The Service and/or the Board should have reported to its members and publicly on this event at the earliest opportunity," says the report.
It says that the policy approved by the police board in April 2020 does not adequately address how investigations involving a chief should be handled. The OCPC report says the new policy fails to provide direction on when an investigation should be performed externally.
But the report also says the responding officers in the 911 case all acted professionally, that Frederick acted appropriately in reporting the incident to the police board, and that the board did the right thing by referring the case to the OPP for an independent review.
Report includes 13 recommendations related to diversity
The report identifies complaints made by officers regarding gender equality in the workplace.
Windsor Police Staff Sgt. Christine Bissonnette has said she is one of the complainants that launched the investigation.
She alleges in an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) complaint that she was passed over for several promotions because of gender bias. The HRTO has not yet ruled on that complaint.
In the OCPC report, recommendation 11 begins by stating that "there is underrepresentation of female sworn officers in the service."
Multiple recommendations suggest ways for the service to engage with the community to address barriers for women and increase its recruitment of female officers.
Another recommendation advises the service to proactively address racial diversity and said it expects the force's new diversity, inclusion and equity coordinator to "play an important role in developing a proactive strategy to increase diversity within the service."
The OCPC said the service has made an effort to promote diversity and acknowledge that it's been successful in hiring officers from some, though not all, communities.
"The service is certainly more diverse in the religious affiliation or backgrounds of its members than ever before," the report reads. "By contrast, the number of black officers within the service has not increased at all despite the service's recruitment efforts."
Service's workplace harassment policy 'suffers significant deficiencies'
After receiving multiple harassment complaints, the commission also investigated whether there was a "poisoned work environment" and if the service has transparent processes to address workplace harassment and human rights concerns.
According to the report, the service's current workplace harassment policy has not been updated for nearly six years.
The report says the policy "suffers from significant deficiencies," such as not outlining, step-by-step how informal and formal complaint processes work and the types of resolutions possible. It also says under the existing policy workplace harassment complaints against the chief or deputy chief are to be dealt with by the board and investigations are done internally, rather than provide the option for external reviews when needed.
One of the recommendations is that the service create a new workplace harassment procedure that is "fair and transparent."
Among other suggestions, it also advises assigning an investigator to workplace harassment investigations and, depending on the circumstance, the ability to hire an external investigator.
Windsor mayor says report will 'lead the way' for the future of the service
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who was elected chair of the police board in 2015, released a statement Friday in response to the OCPC report.
Dilkens acknowledged that the service has work to do, but noted that since the investigation was launched there has been turnover of senior management, with the service gaining a new chief and two new deputy chiefs.
"No large organization, especially one as complex as the Police Service, is infallible," reads Dilkens statement. "In receiving this report, the board, and myself as chair acknowledge that room exists for improvement and we are committed to always striving to enhance the level of public service that we provide."
The statement continued to say that the report will "lead the way" as the city's police service continues to "modernize" and strengthen its relationship with the community.
Dilkens added that the OCPC has asked the board to report back in a year, after reviewing the recommendations and taking appropriate action.
Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno also released a statement Friday. "The commission's report concluded the service has much to be proud of and has introduced some progressive measures to address some of the service's legacy issues, but there is much work still to be done," it reads.
The statement continues to say "the recommendations will assist in directing the service's work towards a more respectful, harassment-free workplace that values equity and diversity, with appropriate supervision and oversight, and ongoing communication between senior leadership and the service's members."