Ontario Civilian Police Commission Report Calls on Windsor Police to Address Transparency and Diversity
A report released Friday by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, after a two-year investigation, made 37 recommendations to the Windsor Police Service and the Windsor Police Services Board.
The 72-page report addresses racial diversity, the low representation of women in police services and recognizes that there should be more transparency in the process of hiring chiefs and deputy chiefs, among others.
It also recommends improving policies on how investigations involving the chief or deputy chiefs are handled.
Former Toronto police officer Jake Shen said he didn’t think the recommendations were enough.
“It’s a little disappointing to be honest,” he said. “I don’t think these recommendations [go] far enough.”
He said the recommendations could have been more specific, especially when it comes to how the police department can have more transparency in their hiring and promotion processes.
The lack of transparency, Shen said, “creates this problem, this curtain, which creates this perception of mystery and injustice.”
He added that this perception of injustice can be “toxic”.
One of the suggestions Shen said he would have liked to see is the department employing an independent third-party company to conduct recruiting interviews and review promotions so these processes can be more objective.
Shen predicted the report would have implications for police departments across the province, but now says it was a “missed opportunity.”
“I think a lot of officers may be disappointed as well… personally I thought it was going to be a lot deeper and more daring,” he said.
“I think this is a missed opportunity, it could have been a wake-up call or a change for all police services in Ontario, but unfortunately it didn’t go that far.”
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (COPC), an independent oversight body under the Police Services Act, launched an investigation in May 2018 following several complaints from Windsor Police members raising serious concerns about the working environment.
The first complaints filed between January and April 2018 cited concerns about “inappropriate interference in specific legal proceedings”, allegations of a “poisoned work environment” and the transparency of the hiring and promotion process.
The investigation was also expanded to include how a 911 call was handled at the home of former Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick in November 2018. The call and investigation were first reported. by CBC News, several months after the incident, citing concerns about the lack of transparency by police departments.
The report says the incident raises “significant systemic issues.”
“The Service and / or the Council should have reported to its members and publicly about this event as soon as possible,” the report said.
He says the policy approved by the police commission in April 2020 does not adequately address how investigations involving a boss should be handled. The OCPC report says the new policy does not provide guidance on when an external investigation should be carried out.
But the report also states that the officers who responded in the 911 case all acted professionally, that Frederick acted appropriately in reporting the incident to the police board, and the board did what it wanted. was necessary by referring the matter back to the OPP for independent review.
The report includes 13 recommendations related to diversity
The report identifies complaints filed by officers regarding gender equality in the workplace.
Windsor Police Staff Sgt. Christine Bissonnette said she was one of the complainants who launched the investigation.
She alleges in a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) complaint that she was screened out of several promotions because of gender bias. The HRTO has yet to rule on this complaint.
In the OCPC report, recommendation 11 begins by stating that “there is an under-representation of women sworn officers in the service”.
Many recommendations suggest ways for the service to engage with the community to remove barriers for women and increase its recruitment of female agents.
Another recommendation advises the service to proactively tackle racial diversity and said it expects the force’s new diversity, inclusion and equity coordinator to “play an important role in developing a proactive strategy to increase diversity within the service ”.
The OCPC said the service has made an effort to promote diversity and recognize that it has been successful in hiring officers from some communities, but not all.
“The service is certainly more diverse in religious affiliation or the origins of its members than ever before,” the report read. “In contrast, the number of black officers in the service has not increased at all despite the service’s recruiting efforts.”
The Service’s policy on harassment at work “suffers from significant shortcomings”
After receiving several harassment complaints, the commission also examined whether there was a “poisoned work environment” and whether the department has transparent processes for dealing with workplace harassment and human rights issues.
According to the report, the service’s current policy on workplace harassment has not been updated for nearly six years.
The report says the policy “suffers from significant shortcomings”, such as not describing, step by step, how informal and formal complaint processes work and the types of resolutions possible. Under existing policy, workplace harassment complaints against the boss or deputy boss must also be dealt with by the board and investigations are carried out internally, rather than offering the possibility of external reviews in case of need.
One of the recommendations is that the service create a new workplace harassment procedure that is “fair and transparent”.
Among other suggestions, he also advises assigning an investigator to work harassment investigations and, depending on the circumstances, the possibility of hiring an external investigator.
Windsor Mayor says report ‘will pave the way’ for future of service
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who was elected chairman of the police council in 2015, released a statement on Friday in response to the OCPC report.
Dilkens acknowledged that the service had work to do, but noted that since the launch of the investigation, there has been a turnover of senior management, with the service gaining a new chief and two new deputy chiefs.
“No large organization, especially one as complex as the police service, is foolproof,” Dilkens’ statement read. “By receiving this report, the Board of Directors and myself as Chairman recognize that there are opportunities for improvement and we are committed to always striving to improve the level of public service we provide.”
The statement went on to say that the report “will lead the way” as the city’s police department continues to “modernize” and strengthen its relationship with the community.
Dilkens added that the OCPC has asked the board to report in a year, after reviewing the recommendations and taking appropriate action.
Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno also released a statement on Friday. “The commission’s report concluded that the service has much to be proud of and has introduced incremental measures to address some of the legacy issues of the service, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” it read.
The statement goes on to say that “the recommendations will help steer the department’s work towards a more respectful and harassment-free workplace that values equity and diversity, with appropriate supervision and oversight, and ongoing communication between senior management. management and service members ”.