Aug 14 2015
The province is planning a revamp of Ontario's Police Service Act which could lead to changes on a number of fronts, including paid suspension for officers and interactions with vulnerable people.
The province announced this week that it will be holding public consultations seeking input on the development of a new strategy to build safer, stronger communities, including updating the Police Services Act, which dates back to 1990.
"We have worked hard with police services to make Ontario one of the safest places in North America. Now it is time to take the next step and build a policing model for the 21st century by rewriting the Police Services Act," said Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said in a release Thursday. "This represents the biggest transformation of policing in Ontario in 25 years, helping communities develop local solutions to improve public safety and overall community well-being."
Dates and locations for the consultations are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The proposed changes are expected to focus on issues such as advancements in technology, including the widespread use of the internet, the increasing frequency of police interactions with vulnerable individuals, such as those suffering with mental health or addiction issues, and enhanced expectations about oversight and accountability of law enforcement.
North Bay Police Chief Paul Cook said work to modernize policing in Ontario and to bring in changes to the Police Services Act have been ongoing since 2012.
In fact, Cook as the former president Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and a member of the Future of Policing Advisory Committee played an integral role in helping to develop a host of recommendations on which the proposed changes are based.
Those recommendations include a call for legislative changes to allow police chiefs to suspend officers without pay under certain circumstances.
The current rules, which require that officers get paid while suspended from duty, has been a contentious issue throughout the province in recent years, with officers in a number of communities collecting paycheques - in some cases for years - pending court proceedings and other hearings.
Cook said that change alone could save taxpayers in Ontario millions of dollars annually.
He said there are, however, a number of considerations that are required as part of the proposed changes to the paid suspension rules, including the right for an officer or his association to appeal a chief's decision, as well as mechanism to make an officer suspended without pay "whole" should they be cleared of any wrongdoing at the end of the process.
Cook said one of the recommendations provided to the province called for mandatory training of police services board members.
In addition, the province is looking at clarifying police duties, modernizing training programs and delivering services using a range of public safety personnel, as well as a framework for First Nations policing to ensure equitable and culturally responsive policing for the province's First Nations communities.
(North Bay Nugget)