Ontario police who act outside of the policing code of conduct soon might have a little more reason to clean up their acts, with the introduction of new legislation which allows officers to be suspended without pay.
The new legislation, if passed, will be the first update to the Police Services Act in more than 25 years and will reflect requests that have been made by the public and police chiefs for decades, bringing Ontario up to speed with every other province in Canada.
On top of the changes with regards to suspensions, the new legislation will bring more oversight to police services, increase public transparency and grant Ontario’s ombudsman the ability to investigate complaints against agencies responsible for police oversight, such as the Special Investigations Unit.
It would also allow police chiefs, boards or the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services to directly suspend an officer without pay in certain circumstances, and would see the establishment of an inspector general to oversee police services.
The proposed changes come through the Safer Ontario Act (Bill 175), introduced Thursday.
The act would see that chiefs of police and police service boards have the ability impose “different disciplinary measures” on police officers for misconduct and unsatisfactory work performance.
Some of those different disciplinary measures are termination, demotion, temporary suspensions, forfeiture of pay and reprimands.
Termination of employment and demotion would not be able to be imposed directly. Instead, the chief of police, police service board or Minister must apply to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to hold a hearing on the matter, in which case the Tribunal may order termination, demotion or another disciplinary measure at the end of a hearing.
Suspensions without pay may be imposed in limited circumstances, including convictions for an offence, sentencing to a term of imprisonment, judicial interim releases that prevent the officer from performing duties, as well as charges for certain serious offences.
The Bill would also bring a new level of safety in communities, whereas municipal councils would be required to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan. These plans would identify risk factors to the community and identify strategies to reduce prioritized risk factors.
In addition, municipal councils which adopt such a plan must monitor, evaluate and report on the effect it is having.
The Niagara Regional Police Service charged three of its own officers between Sept. 19 and Oct 9, all of who were suspended with pay according to the current police act.
On Sept. 29, Constable Matthew Belzil was arrested and charged with three counts of assault, two counts of uttering threats, two counts of mischief and one count of sexual assault. It was the second time he was charged with assault over a period of 11 years with the NRP.
On Oct. 6, Constable Mark Taks was arrested on multiple narcotics trafficking charges.
On Oct. 9, Constable Ken Schonewille was charged with assaulting a 17-year-old male while on duty. He had been with the NRP for 15 years at the time of the assault.