It offends most intelligent people that suspended officers can sit at home watching television or golfing on full pay for years in Ontario.
Many taxpayers were horrified last month when they learned a suspended Waterloo Police Service officer emailed his superiors to thank them for the three years of fun and frolic he had while receiving full salary.
Last week, the Toronto Sun covered a similar situation in which a Durham Regional officer has been suspended with pay for six years, as he progresses through various hearings and tribunals. Sadly, these are not isolated cases, but a regular occurrence in Ontario. In fact in my final years with the OPP, I witnessed two separate instances where sergeants facing serious criminal charges were suspended for several years without missing so much as a single paycheque. It was nauseating to say the least.
Two things need be made clear: Firstly, the vast majority of officers are honest, committed, brave and hard working. Some do make mistakes, most without malice, but occasionally one does something criminal in nature. Regardless they all must be held appropriately accountable.
Secondly, this situation is not the fault of the police chiefs. In fact, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) has been calling “upon the Government of Ontario to amend the Police Services Act to allow for the suspension without pay of police officers charged … where the chief of police will seek dismissal of the officer” since 2007. It is the Police Services Act (PSA) that provides authority for hearings to be held and to mete out punishment for proven transgressions, up to and including dismissal.
Traditionally chiefs only suspend officers for serious criminal allegations, when they will be seeking dismissal and when there is a reasonable expectation that they will be convicted.
If not likely to be dismissed, it is better for the officer — who is assumed innocent until proven guilty — to do meaningful work, as opposed to being castigated before due process occurs. This is not about those officers.
In one highly publicized case, then-chief Bill Blair of the Toronto Police Service brought Constable James Forcillo back to work from suspension after being charged with murder. I’m not saying I agree with that eyebrow-raising decision, but in most cases, if the officer is not going to be dismissed, it is appropriate to have them continue doing their normal or amended duties for their salary.
At times officers are suspended over alleged egregious offences that occurred off duty and had nothing to do with their employment as a police officer. Two Toronto officers that murdered their wives come immediately to mind as well as another that killed his girlfriend. Unless held in custody before conviction, those officers would have received full salary as well. The chiefs would have had no other option.Some police associations purposely drag out cases with extended trial dates and appeals even when they know full well the member will be convicted — simply to allow the member to reach a pensionable position. Wonderful. These officers have let down their colleagues and the public they serve, but are protected and allowed to sit at home on full pay while other good cops pick up the slack — then qualify for a lifelong pension.
It should be a no-brainer that officers be suspended without pay for flagrant and serious criminal offences that occur on or off duty. Their association could help them through financially, and they could recover lost wages through an established agreement or through a civil process if acquitted. If they aren't getting paid or if the association is funding their salary, they will all want the process to run its course quickly, as do victims and witnesses.Government needs to immediately amend the antiquated PSA to allow this authority as soon as possible. Ontario remains the only province that hasn’t done just that. It is critical to maintaining public trust — particularly at a time when deserved or not (often not), police in North America are suffering from a growing image problem.
It offends most informed and intelligent people that suspended officers can sit at home watching television or golfing on full pay for years in Ontario. That simply doesn’t happen to the same degree elsewhere in Canada. In the U.S., they’d be immediately fired for many such offences, not coddled for enough years to earn a nice pension.
By: Chris D. Lewis Published on Sun Aug 09 2015
Chris D. Lewis was the Commissioner of the OPP from 2010 to 2014.http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commenta ... t-pay.html