Police suspensions: What insiders say they want to see change
Published Thursday, April 21, 2016 4:50PM EDT
Ontario is one of two provinces in Canada where police officers facing allegations of misconduct can’t be placed on unpaid leave.
Suspensions without pay are only an option in cases where officers have been convicted of criminal offences and sentenced to jail time, and are still facing discipline under the Police Services Act.
In some cases, that rule has resulted in police officers spending years sitting at home, collecting paycheques without doing any work, only to resign or retire before facing internal discipline.
One Waterloo Regional Police officer remains on paid suspension as of this writing, even though he pleaded guilty in court to criminal harassment and unauthorized possession of a weapon charges several weeks ago.
From police chiefs to outside observers to people representing officers accused of misconduct, just about everyone involved in the system agrees that some sort of change is needed.
But just what should that change entail?
CTV’s Krista Simpson asked that question as part of her examination of the police suspension issue.
Here are some of the responses.
Chief Bryan Larkin, Waterloo Regional Police Service: “The current legislation … does not provide the necessary tools that we require to properly and efficiently run a police organization. There’s no incentive for anyone to come back to work, because you’re suspended with full pay.”
Chief Jeff DeRuyter, Guelph Police Service: “The act needs to be revised … to allow for the opportunity for suspension with pay. The public often feels that … we suspend with pay and that we have a choice to do otherwise. The legislation hasn’t been there to give us the opportunity to take another approach.”
Paul Perchaluk, president of the Waterloo Regional Police Association union: “The system is broken, because it takes way too long. These investigations should be very quick … and should be over in probably six months. There has to be oversight of the chiefs.”
Bernard Cummins, lawyer who has represented police officers suspended locally: “It’s a very slippery slope when we start to make value judgements about what qualifies for suspension without pay and what does not. What needs to be changed is the ability … for the chief of police to both appoint the prosecutor and appoint the hearing officer.”
Chris Lewis, former OPP commissioner: “I think suspension should be rare in policing. It should be the most egregious offences, and only when you’re seeking dismissal – and if that’s the case, then why should someone be allowed to sit home for years on end with full salary?”
Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services: “We’re in the process of reviewing the Police Services Act. It’s important that we bring policing into the 21st century. Part of the conversation that we’re looking at is the issue of suspension without pay.”