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Dear Ottawa Police Services Board ...
How Do I Put This ... You're About As Useful As A Screen Door On A Submarine. We're Through.
(Photo Credit: Trevor Pritchard/CBC)
Time and time again, the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) and its Chair, Eli El-Chantiry, have been given the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to govern the activities of the leadership of the Ottawa Police Services (OPS) and have refused. Though certainly not news, we cannot ignore that the OPS has been in organizational distress for some time; from unacceptably low employee satisfaction and gender inequity to charges of internal corruption, illustrating a clear pattern over the years.
While the Chief is responsible through his leadership for the Ottawa Polices Services as an organization, the OPSB is the minder of the Chief - they are responsible and accountable for the delivery and quality of police services to the public, as determined by the needs of the City of Ottawa. That quality is not only marked by the level of effectiveness of the service, but also the well-being of the police members delivering that service. Here, and overall, the OPSB has been failing miserably.
Despite the repeated issues with the OPS leadership, the OPSB continues to ignore its irrefutable responsibility and refuses to perform the fundamental responsibilities designated by the Police Services Act, such as (and not limited to) imposing performance metrics and targets that "monitor and direct" the service's effectiveness for our communities. Restated several times by Matt Skof, Ottawa Police Association (OPA) president, myself and several others, the Police Services Act allows for a number of options to be exercised by the OPSB to improve the current state of the OPS - namely, just about everything under Section 31(1) that explicitly lays out the responsibilities of the Board.
Sadly, the Chair's words of denial has become a familiar refrain. In 2016, accusations of misconduct were pointed at the Chief in relation to his involvement in his father-in-law's, former Gloucester police chief Lester Thompson's, traffic ticket case. Again, the Chair refused to act, stating that he saw no reason to investigate the Chief. It was only after intense public pressure did the OPSB yield and order an investigation - an investigation that failed to interview what were deemed key witnesses, yet still managed to conclude that no wrongdoing had occurred.
The most recent refusal to act was in May 2017 when Matt Skof called for the OPSB Chair, Eli El-Chantiry, to intervene on the Chief's refusal to suspend or reassign senior OPS officers facing criminal allegations. The OPSB Chair responded that "there is nothing to be done about complaints about inconsistencies when officers are suspended because the law allows for it", which is patently untrue.
On various occasions, the OPA, as well as members of the public, have requested to provide input, with the OPSB refusing to entertain any scenario that involves anyone other than the Chief. Which is odd as El-Chantiry has been known to doodle outside the lines and chat up senior officers beneath the Chief. In the above instance, not one single member of the public, the OPA, nor any other oversight body has any indication of the specifics put forth by the Chief, which were ultimately accepted by the Board.
The seriousness of these concerns and their impacts extend far beyond the seven members of the OPSB and touch the very day to day life in this city. Those affected remain purposefully excluded, and the distrust of the public and police service members deepen by the secrecy and actions of the OPSB. This is the state of transparency and accountability with the OPSB and the Chair, and since the Chair speaks on behalf of the Board, one has to deduce that every OPSB member is permissive of these failings.
The number of leadership and organizational failures sustained by the OPS and the discontent expressed by OPS employees that have fallen on the deaf ears of the OPSB is staggering and can only be presumed to be a form of strategic aversion. Would acknowledgement of any issue in the OPS would bring forth a watershed of accountability for the OPSB that may disrupt personal relationships and agendas that have no business in the public service arena in the first place? Would acknowledgement of that accountability create a culpable awareness, holding every OPSB member's feet to the fire, forcing them to do the job they were appointed to do?
While we wait for one to break from the herd, ignorance appears to be bliss for the Board and the public needs to appreciate and understand they (you) are being duped. There is no reasonable excuse for the continuous inaction by the OPSB while the PSA, Section 31 (1) and its sub-sections spell it out for anyone to see:
A police services board must ...
... generally determine, after consultation with the chief of police, objectives and priorities with respect to police services in the municipality;
Read as: What the police services board communicates as the priorities of the municipality and interests of the public and what the police services must and will achieve in a designated time period ...
... establish policies for the effective management of the police force;
Read as: How the police services must function while the meeting those priorities ...
... direct the chief of police and monitor his or her performance;
Read as: A chief's report card based on the fulfillment of priorities, which is either "What you are doing is working - keep up to the good work!" ... OR ... "What you are doing is not working - let's go over this again ... "
Even Public Safety Canada recognized the inadequacies of police services boards in 2013 in a likely little-read and unheeded publication titled, "Canadian Police Board Views on the Use of Police Performance Metrics". The criticisms that were raised concerning the validity and effectiveness of police services boards across Canada form the root problem with the OPSB: a shocking absence of and/or rigour in performance measurement activities and targets that is the very basis of board oversight. These were the some of summary observations:
"Surprisingly, a significant proportion of police services do not have any performance measurement framework in place. It is thus unclear how meaningful board expenditure review or budget approval actually occurs."
"A number of police services appear to track a significant amount of performance data and create performance ratios, but it was unclear as to the type of analysis used to determine whether the goals were being achieved."
"The content analysis further showed that many police services appear to be working in a vacuum, with each selecting their own measures, or even worse emulating the wrong peers."
Made very clear in this report, the monitoring of performance is not enough and board direction through prioritized objectives and targets must be standard, in order for police services to deliver the level of service required by the public. However, not addressed in this report is the need for service-level objectives and targets, like crime rates, clearances rates and public trust, to be counter-balanced with organizational targets, such as employee satisfaction with leadership, gender parity and internal complaints reduction, to protect organizational and workplace well-being.
In fact, one without the other is unsustainable - you cannot have an unhealthy workplace, unhappy workforce and employee inequity and meet organizational targets.
In contrast, the absence of performance metrics and targets that are acted upon creates a breeding ground of factors that destroy police services - from arbitrary decision-making and poor budget management to the more serious, such as favouritism, self-interest and influence that result in corrupt practices. When left unaddressed and uncorrected for an extended period of time, normalization sets in and so does the disparity of undoing a broken system.
In short, the stagnating OPSB has devolved into a politicized and imbalanced representation of hand-picked individuals who are perfectly content in meeting the bare minimum, which has de-professionalized the OPS to a level of policing not seen since pre-Colonial times.
With no incentive to meet the legislative requirement, and no penalty or punitive response for not doing so, those who selected these board members - Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa councillors and the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario - need to accept accountability for these individuals:
Ottawa Police Services Board Members:
Provincial Appointees: Jim Durrell (Vice Chair), Carl Nicholson, Suzanne Valiquet.
City Council Representatives: Councillor Eli El-Chantiry (Chair), Councillor Allan Hubley, Councillor Tim Tierney.
Citizen appointed by City Council: L. A. (Sandy) Smallwood.
But it's the public who needs to break-up with this Board by demanding transparency and legislative accountability under the PSA, through the Ontario Civilian police Commission
(http://www.slasto.gov.on.ca/en/OCPC/Pages/default.aspx) by emailing your complaint to: OCPCregistrar@ontario.ca.
 Public Safety Canada website: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/plc-vws-prfrmnc-mtrcs/i...