Proposed changes to Ontario’s Police Services Act after a quarter century of status quo are being met with mixed reaction in Peterborough, Ont.
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced changes to the province’s policing laws Thursday morning.
“Suspension without pay is pretty much exactly what the Ontario Chiefs have been asking for,” said Kawartha Lakes Police Service Chief John Hagarty, adding that chiefs would have to meet strict standards before such a suspension could take place.
Right now, officers suspended from duty due to criminal or Police Services Act allegations still collect a pay cheque while awaiting trial or a hearing.
The proposed legislation allows top cops to change that, even if an offence occurs when the officer is off duty. The legislation stems from a report by Appeals Court Justice Michael Tulloch on police oversight, released earlier this year.
Naqvi indicated the province plans to move ahead with every one of the 129 recommendations in that report.
Not everyone is embracing the idea, though.
Jeff Chartier represents uniformed officers of the Peterborough Police Service as president of the Peterborough Police Association. He says there need to be strong guidelines in place when it comes to cutting off an officer’s paycheque over an alleged offence.
“There are concerns,” he told Global News. “What offences are they talking about? There are concerns that that power will be abused throughout the province.”
Along with the “suspension without pay” clause, there are other new rules.
The legislation revamps how police complaints are handled, and who oversees police boards, something Peterborough’s mayor has been seeking for years.
“Certainly from a sustainability standpoint, from the taxpayer, and that’s what this is all about in many ways, to make sure police boards have the tools they need to do their job, but also do in a form that meets the needs of the community that they’re serving,” said Mayor Daryl Bennett.
Among the changes being introduced to Ontario’s policing laws will be the new Missing Persons Act that promises to give police more tools to search for missing people — tools such as the ability to track cellphones and enter homes in connection with such cases. Currently, police are not allowed to take such steps unless there’s evidence that a crime has been committed.
The new rules, if passed, will be the first update to the Police Services Act in more than 25 years.