Police Services Board Faces Challenges Come Amid Doubts by Malcolm Mercer

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Thunder Bay Police Services Board

THUNDER BAY – NEWS Analysis – Malcolm Mercer is overviewing the next steps that the Thunder Bay Police Services Board needs to go states, “I do not think that simply appointing a new Board members and new police leadership will be sufficient”.

Read the full report: Here

The board has bogged down with Human Rights Tribunal complaints, come into conflict over the collective bargaining process, and over an investigation that started into potential leaks of confidential police investigation information.

Mercer says that the board needs to be more representative of the population, and based from the north, the provincial administrator position according to Mercer’s report should not be someone from Southern Ontario.

“While I conclude that Board did not implement recommendations, policies and procedures as they should have done, I also conclude that the Board was not equipped to do all that was asked of it,” reports Mercer. “A small part-time Board with part-time support will not accomplish what is needed in Thunder Bay. If all that happens is the appointment of new people, there is the very real prospect of yet another failure to advance crucial goals.”

Mercer seems to imply that over the past two years, the board has ended up embroiled in internal wrangling and therefore has had difficulty in moving forward to accomplish everything that needed to be done. He does not however place blame on any individuals on the board.

Mercer in a report for the Ontario Civilian Police Commission submitted in August and released September 8, 2022 states that:

“Irrespective of the underlying merits, the result has been distraction and diversion of Board resources and attention over the last two years.

“This is tragic as the work of the Board has suffered. While the Board has dealt with day-to-day matters and has done good work in developing the Strategic Plan and the Building Project, there has been unacceptable delay in advancing the OCPC recommendations and insufficient attention to policy implications of the OIPRD recommendations.

“To be clear, while the events leading up to this unfortunate state of affairs do not directly relate to Indigenous issues, it may be that Ms. Morriseau would have received greater support and assistance if she had not been an Indigenous woman.

“To be clear, I do not suggest discrimination in a legal sense. Kristen Oliver was actively involved in Ms. Morriseau being appointed by City Council to the Board. Mr. Pelletier, also an Indigenous person, was a Board member by the spring of 2021, having joined the Board with the support of Michael Power. However, there was existing division in the Board by the spring of 2021 that could be traced to earlier divisions within the Board during the administration.

“And there is always some risk that those perceived to be on the “outside” may not be as well-supported as those who are not.

“But what is striking and clear is that fundamentally important work in advancing fair and effective policing through implementation of crucial recommendations has suffered.

“In my view, it is important to move forward to address the work that needs to be done. This report is intended to provide transparency as to what has happened in order to move forward a good way.

“There are a number of specific and important steps that must now be taken to move forward:

  • Two provincial appointments to the Board are now required.
  • Three municipal appointments will be made after the fall municipal election:
  • Consistent with recommendation 42 of the OCPC Report, careful attention should be paid in making these appointments to the attributes, characteristics and competencies that are required for effective contribution to the Board.
  • In appointing Board members, the province and the city should take into account the importance of ensuring Board insight into the needs and perspectives of the peoples and communities served by the Police Service.

“For Thunder Bay, this requires that the Board understand the perspective of longer-term and shorter-term residents of Thunder Bay as well as the perspectives of those who live, work and play in Thunder Bay.

“Said simply, there is a need for the perspective of First Nations people both from near by and from remote First Nations who are served by the Police Service while in Thunder Bay.

“Board members should be prepared to do the hard work required, to be committed to the important work of Board including advancing the OIPRD and OCPC Recommendations and to doing their work in accordance with the Code of Conduct.

“The Board must now recruit and appoint a new chief of police given Chief Hauth’s announced retirement. This is an important decision that will have implications for years to come and which must take into account the needs of the peoples and communities served by the Police Service as well as effective leadership of the Police Service.

“Appointment of new Board members and new police leadership should include consultation with significant stakeholders including First Nations leadership.
There is a pressing need for the new Board to advance the OCPC Recommendations and policies arising out of the OIPRD Recommendations and to put in place policies and procedures to ensure that this work is done, done well and seen to be done well.

“In my view, an Administrator from Southern Ontario is not, and should not be seen as, the solution to the challenges faced by the Police Service and those it serves. Solutions must come from a properly functioning Board that addresses the important challenges that face the Police Service and the people and communities served by the Police Service. Going forward, I intend to focus on doing what can be done to best position a new Board for success.”