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The Ontario Association of Police Service Boards (OAPSB) passed a motion Sept. 12 that agrees with “the general themes” of a report released in June by retired judge John Morden.
The 425-page report, which criticized the neutered role of Toronto’s civilian police services board during the G20, found that the crux of the board’s failings leading up to the 2010 summit flowed from a misunderstanding of its mandate under the 1990 provincial Police Services Act.
According to Morden, the act allows for board members to question a police chief about specific policing operations and make recommendations — something that was news to many boards across Ontario that have historically thought operations to be the chief’s domain.
Morden made 38 recommendations to strengthen the board’s oversight of the police force — powers he said are already theirs to exercise under the act. Since the report’s release, police boards in Ottawa and Durham Region have asked for clarification.
The OAPSB — which counts 85 per cent of the province’s police boards as members — concurred that boards should monitor, direct and question the chief regarding operational outcomes and any limitations, as well as pay attention to special events like the G20.
The association did acknowledge challenges in finding the right level of scrutiny a board should apply to operations, as well as the challenges police boards may have in monitoring operations to the extent that Morden suggests. (For example, many board members work on a part-time basis.)
It recommended that a committee be formed to look at the how much intervention would be too much.
“The association’s adoption of the principles in the report is an important step forward for policing in Ontario,” said Ryan Teschner, who served as review counsel for Morden.
The OAPSB’s rubber stamp only serves as guideline and is not binding. In its motion, the association asked the provincial government to provide further clarification.
Meantime Monday, a group of 30 Torontonians, some of them prominent lawyers and academics, signed a letter recommending changes in the way policing is delivered in Toronto. The letter, addressed to Mayor Rob Ford as well as provincial party leaders, followed up on Morden’s report, as well as another G20 report released by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
It calls for dismissing Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee and requiring the rest of the current board to commit to duties as proposed by Morden or resign. It suggest expanding the six-member board to 15. Mukherjee declined to comment Monday.
Other recommendations in the letter focused on police culture.
“Police culture — police solidarity, violence, little respect for civilians, little regard for the niceties of the law — played a very significant role in how events unfolded at the G20,” the letter says. It recommends that rather than hiring officers in entry-level positions, police recruit for specific positions. Also, that training recruits should take place at an established college or university rather than the Ontario Police College.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash declined to comment Monday.
The letter also calls for dismissing Police Chief Bill Blair and, where appropriate, disciplining other senior officers. “Mr. Morden makes it clear that Chief Blair hindered the Board in providing effective oversight during the G20, and he did not carry out his duty to ensure the police force upheld the law,” it says.