KAWARTHA LAKES-Ontario’s police leaders are calling for “substantive and sweeping” changes to the current police discipline system – including suspension without pay – in order to address issues of public trust, confidence, and transparency when an officer commits serious misconduct.
A resolution requesting changes to the police discipline system, including the suspension issue, was passed by OACP members at the association’s 2021 Annual General Meeting held in June.
“The current and proposed (under the pending enactment of the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019) police discipline system is built on a model that is an archaic, paramilitary, and simply no longer instills public trust, confidence, and transparency,” said Chief Bryan Larkin (Waterloo Regional Police Service), who sponsored the resolution. “While the issue of suspension with or without pay may be the most prominent of the issues facing police organizations in this area, it is not the solution to the underlying issues with the police discipline system.”
According to OACP President Chief Gary Conn (Chatham-Kent Police Service), the public is clearly demanding greater transparency and accountability from all police personnel, including Chiefs of Police and senior police leaders.
“The current and proposed police discipline system puts officers, senior managers, and the public through unnecessarily procedurally laden processes that takes far too long to complete, does not meet normal labour law standards, does not protect subject officers and witnesses from pointless public exposure to intimate and personal details, and is far too costly at the provincial and/or municipal level. We can and must do better.”
The OACP is calling on the Government of Ontario to make changes to the current discipline system, including (but not limited to):
- Shifting internal police discipline to a full discipline, grieve, and arbitrate model, where suspension without pay only comes into play as part of discipline options (not before a decision on misconduct is made),
- Foster public transparency (without exposing a police officer, witness, compliant/victim of misconduct to unnecessary shame or public disclosure, having in mind personal and intimate details, mental health issues, the revealing of protected investigative techniques or operations) by requiring all disciplinary decisions that involve a penalty of more than 40 hours (up to termination) to be publicly posted and provided to the Inspector General, with a brief factual background without names; and, all Grievance Arbitration decision should be equally posted and proved to the Inspector General, but with the Arbitrator, similar to a Court, empowered to de-identify, vet and/or prohibit the publication of certain details), and
- Maintain a separate public complaints process that allows for complaints for violations of the Code of Conduct to be investigated and adjudicated similar to other professional oversight bodies (e.g., College of Physicians, Law Society of Ontario, etc.), where the Chief of Police/Commissioner has standing in the penalty phase only.
In April 2021 The Toronto Star reported 120 Ontario police officers are currently suspended with pay with most of them making more than $100,000 a year.