Ottawa police chief wants to stop paying officers charged with off-duty offences
OTTAWA — Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau thinks it’s high time that police officers charged with criminal offences while they were off duty stop receiving pay cheques while suspended.
Bordeleau Wednesday voiced concerns that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has had for some time: That the nature of serious criminal charges and their effect on police reputation and the ever-increasing cost of police salaries mean forces should have the discretion to suspend without pay any officers who have been criminally charged.
“Right now we’re just forced to pay them and it’s not right,” Bordeleau told the Citizen.
The OACP would like to see changes to the Police Services Act to allow police in Ontario to do two things — allow the suspension without pay of an officer charged with a serious offence that is not related to the performance of his or her duty, and to do the same when an officer charged with a serious offence is held in custody or faces conditions where he or she can’t perform job duties. Those changes can’t come until the provincial government agrees to at least discuss the issue.
With the costs of policing rising in Ottawa and across Ontario and the bulk of that money going toward salaries, paying a charged officer a salary close to $100,000 a year for several years while a criminal case is underway could save individual forces hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s their taxpayers’ money that is going toward this and they don’t see it as fair and I agree with them,” Bordeleau said.
“It’s an added pressure to our budgets.”
Bordeleau said the savings in salaries won’t solve the budget crunch since there are only a handful of situations where no-pay suspensions would be used, but the point is preserving public trust in policing.
“The money’s one thing, but it’s the whole principle of having a member charged with a serious criminal offence that has nothing to do with their job and we still are forced to pay them.”
President of the Ottawa police union Matt Skof, however, said it’s the prejudicial principle behind no-pay suspensions that worries him. Docking pay suggests wrongdoing, he said.
“We’re persecuted publicly before we’re given any right to a trial and it’s because we’re police officers that that’s happening,” Skof said.
“That’s the irony, it’s our profession that’s driving this move.”
In response to union concerns, both Bordeleau and the OACP said the suspensions wouldn’t interfere with the judicial process.
“I believe in the presumption of innocence,” Bordeleau said, stressing the difference between on-duty and off-duty charges. In cases where officers are charged while they are doing their jobs, the OACP thinks pay should continue while the court process occurs.
OACP spokesman Joe Couto said some chiefs in Ontario, responding to the public’s demand for accountability, have required criminally charged officers to check in at their detachments daily. Const. Michael Janho, an OPP officer charged with luring a child, is required as part of his suspension with pay, to check in at the Kanata detachment Monday to Friday. Other officers are assigned to administrative or equipment duties to show the public that the suspended officers aren’t simply sitting at home collecting a pay cheque. When pay would resume and in what capacity are all subsequent conversations that would come once the government agrees to address the issue, Couto said.
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur is interested in having the conversation, but her press secretary Craig MacBride said it’s not likely to happen until after a report on the future of policing across the province is received by the ministry.
In an emailed statement to the Citizen, Meilleur’s office said: “The Ministry and its policing partners have been working through the Future of Policing Advisory Committee (FPAC) to look at the sustainability of police service delivery in Ontario.
“The issue of suspension without pay will be considered by the Future of Policing Advisory Committee (FPAC), which the ministry launched last year,” the statement continued. “Any changes to the Police Services Act would require consultations with all affected partners in the policing community and approval by the Legislature.”
“It would take legislation,” MacBride said. “It’s not something that’s a quick fix.”http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/O ... story.html