Ottawa police board meeting disrupted by activists demanding answers

« Tonight things are going to be a little different. »

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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs were confronted at their first meeting of the police services board on Monday with local activists who disrupted proceedings with what they called a act of civil disobedience.

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« We’re done being ignored while you’re ignoring basic democratic principles, » Robin Browne, co-manager of 613-819 Black Hub, announced during what was supposed to be a five-minute presentation to the board. administration. « So tonight things are going to be a little different. »

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He said he would not leave his chair in a city hall committee room until the council answered four questions posed by his colleague.

Bailey Gauthier asked if the board would revert to a hybrid structure for its meetings, allowing for online delegations (they must now be in person); whether the police would be included in the mayor’s promise of a line-by-line audit of city hall budgets; whether the council would freeze the police budget until this audit is complete; and whether it would commission an independent, human rights-based review of the police service.

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« With all due respect, I will not leave this chair until you answer our questions, » Browne announced.

After repeatedly refusing requests to leave and letting the board continue its work, interim board chair Suzanne Valiquet suspended the meeting for 15 minutes.

Then, with Browne and Gauthier still seated at the committee table and their microphones muted, the board went through the key items on its agenda in less than five minutes without discussion.

It is the second time in the past week that a public meeting has been interrupted and cut short by disruptive members of the public.

Last Tuesday, a meeting of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board was unable to vote on imposing mask rules after people opposed to such mandates interrupted it with heckling and shouting. teasing. The police were called, the meeting was moved online and the vote was delayed.

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Monday’s police board meeting approved Sutcliffe’s appointment to two police board committees and the appointment of some special constables.

It was then abruptly adjourned based on a motion by board member Michael Doucet without considering a series of reports on human rights, racial profiling and workplace management.

The workplace management report says the police service will send a class of 30 recruits to the Ontario Police College next month as it ramps up hiring to offset an unexpected increase in layoffs retirement.

This will be the third and largest class of recruits to begin the process to become Ottawa Police Officers in 2022.

The police department forecasts annual retirements based on historical averages and demographics, but the 2022 numbers surprised officials: That year’s 25 retirements were two and a half times the historical average of 10 per year.

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“This can be attributed to several factors, including members choosing to delay retirement during the height of the pandemic, opportunities in other organizations, and personal issues,” according to the Workforce Management report.

The report makes no mention of the so-called « freedom convoy » that occupied downtown Ottawa for a month and pushed many police officers to their limits.

In testimony to the Emergencies Act inquiry, former chief Peter Sloly said officers faced « inhumane circumstances » during the protest. « It was too cold and it was too much, but they did their best, » Sloly said, adding that misinformation about their work had dented officers’ morale.

The workplace management report says Ottawa will have hired 83 new officers by the end of this year. Those recruited in April are expected to be fully trained and deployed by January, while those recruited in August will begin serving in May 2023. The first two classes of recruits include 14 racialized men, 12 non-racialized men, one Indigenous man and seven women.

The 30 new recruits who will enter the police college in December will require about nine months of training and will add $1.7 million to the service’s annual budget.

Stubbs said staffing will be one of his priorities as Ottawa’s new police chief.

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