Why should the Province of Ontario further clarify the role of our police services boards? While it has been obvious for many years that these highly politicized boards are largely inadequate for the role they undertake, they have sufficient powers needed to do their job. To outline those powers in more detail to the members of the boards would almost guarantee their usage when not necessarily warranted.
What brings up this concern is the request by the chair of the City of Ottawa police services board for clarification of the role of the boards. The Ottawa board and others across the province appear to be confused by the report from retired judge John Morden on the Toronto G20 fiasco. You hardly need to read between the lines of Morden’s report to see why Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair should be fired and the Toronto Police Services Board should resign for failure to do their job.
But they are like many police board members across Ontario who seem to think they have no right to question those police operations that are managed by the police chief. They appear to be forgetting that the chief works under contract for the board. The board hires and fires the chief.
It is similar, with a few differences, to the relationship of the board of directors of a company and the company’s chief operating officer. The quasi-military chain of command and discipline needs of a police force require the board members to keep their distance from any action that could constitute interference in day-to-day operations.
But questioning policing policies and interaction of the police with the public are very much the right of the board. The board members are responsible for policing on behalf of the community. They work for the public and not the police.
This is one reason why it is very annoying to see police service board members acting as spokespersons for the police. As it stands today, municipal councillors and mayors who serve on police service boards should be declaring a conflict and not voting on police budgets. For the chair of the police services board to present the police budget to the council instead of a representative of the police officials who created it, is a corruption of the role of the police services chair.
But if we continue appointing unqualified people to police services boards, we are going to continue to muddle along. The problem is the people, more than the rules.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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