Ottawa Police Services Board to introduce new police chief

The Ottawa Police Services Board will introduce the new chief of the Ottawa Police Service on Friday, three days before a new council is elected.

Peter Sloly resigned as chief of the Ottawa Police Service on Feb. 14 during the “Freedom Convoy” occupation in downtown Ottawa.  Deputy Chief Steve Bell was appointed interim chief after Sloly’s resignation, and has remained interim chief.

A virtual media conference will be held at 2 p.m. Friday. You can watch it live on this page.

In a statement, the Ottawa Police Services Board says a positive COVID-19 test among invitees means the media availability will be virtual.

The hiring of the new police chief comes just days before Ottawa voters will elect a new mayor and council, with at least 11 new councillors set to be elected, and the Public Order Emergency Commission looking into the circumstances that led to the declaration of the Emergencies Act during the “Freedom Convoy” occupation. Ottawa’s Auditor General is also investigating the city of Ottawa and Ottawa police response to the convoy and the occupation in downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks in January and February.

In a statement on Twitter Thursday evening, mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney called the decision to a hire a new chief just days before the municipal election “shameful.”

“I am ready to work with the new Chief of Police in restoring trust in our police service after the convoy. However, announcing a new Chief days before voters choose their new council, while the inquiry into the occupation is underway, can only be described in one way: shameful,” McKenney said.

“Rushing to make this decision during a campaign — in a questionable process that is the subject of a formal public complaint — does nothing to restore public confidence at a time when it is most needed in our city.”

In July, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a motion to proceed with the recruitment stage for the new police chief during the municipal election campaign, after the board conducted public consultations. In August, the Ottawa Police Service issued a job posting inviting candidates to apply for the chief’s position, with interviews set for late September and early October.

CALLS TO DELAY HIRING OF NEW CHIEF 

McKenney and fellow mayoral candidate Bob Chiarelli called on the Ottawa Police Services Board to delay hiring the new police chief until after Monday’s election. In a joint letter to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission on Tuesday, Chiarelli and McKenney said the incoming council should have a say on who is chosen to lead the service.

“A rushed process to hire a police chief in the middle of the campaign, overseen by an outgoing councillor days before an election, will not restore the trust we need after a national crisis,” McKenney said in a statement.

The letter also said it is a “conflict of interest” that Coun. Eli El-Chantiry is overseeing the hiring of a new police chief while also co-chairing Mark Sutcliffe’s mayoral campaign.

In the media advisory for Friday’s introduction of the new chief, the Ottawa Police Services Board acknowledges that some candidates have called on the board to put the recruitment process for a new chief on hold in order to allow the incoming Council to oversee the hiring process.

“The Board takes this opportunity to remind the candidates, and clarify for the public, that the Police Services Board is a distinct and separate body from City Council, created by s. 27(1) of the Police Services Act. The Board includes a majority of members who are not drawn from City Council,” the statement said.

The Ottawa Police Services Board statement adds that pausing the recruitment until the next term of Council would mean, “the service would be without a permanent Chief of Police until next spring or perhaps later.”

“The Ottawa Police Service has been without a permanent Chief of Police since February of this year. Further, the entire Executive Command, with the exception of the Chief Administrative Officer, are in acting positions,” the statement said. “This has impacted the stability of the Police Service after an already challenging year.”

In a letter to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission on Wednesday, El-Chantiry noted that under the Police Services Act, the board has the “statutory obligation to recruit and appoint” the chief.

“The Service has been without a permanent Chief of Police since February of this year. The next term of Council will not begin until November 15, and the appointments to Committees and Boards likely won’t be finalized until the end of the year or early 2023. The next iteration of the Board might not be in a position to appoint a new Chief of Police until next spring or later,” El-Chantiry wrote.

“The Board made its decision because it was (and is) of the view that it is unacceptable for the Police Service and it is unacceptable for the community, to not have a confirmed permanent Chief for over a year.”

“It is actually in the best interests of the next Board to have this critical position filled before they begin their mandate as this will enable them to focus their attention on the budget, an updated strategic plan, and the recruitment of a permanent Deputy Chief of Police since we have had a vacancy in that role also since February of this year.”

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