Are Ottawa taxpayers getting value for money from the OPS?

Photo credit: Michael Burns

It is absolutely preposterous for the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) to be seeking an increase in their budget in excess of five percent from the taxpayers of this City. It is sheer lunacy for the City Council to even entertain such a proposal. Now don’t get me wrong. If the Ottawa Police Service has evidence that the increase is perfectly justified and they have a stellar record of good policing than why would anyone balk at such a request. The central question is whether such an increase is warranted and justified by the level of policing service that citizens are receiving from the Ottawa Police Service.

Before any decision can be made on such a proposal from the Ottawa Police Service city councillors should be asking the tough questions. For example, what has the Ottawa Police Service been doing in the past eight years to save money and cut expenditures. Let’s consider just one area that is costing this City dearly in tax dollars and that is the plethora of successful lawsuits and out of court settlements that the city has been paying out in thousands of dollars for what only can only be described as abysmal policing in Ottawa.

On July 17, 2017 taxpayers paid out $255K when the Ottawa Police and the City of Ottawa was successfully sued by Roxanne Carr for her wrongful arrest and imprisonment by Ottawa police in 2008.  Despite this outcome not one of the eight police officers involved in this debacle were ever charged under the Criminal Code of Canada or faced charges under the Police Services Act of Ontario.  On July 24, 2018 the family of Abdirahman Abdi announced that they are suing the Ottawa Police Services Board, Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau and constables Daniel Montsion and David Weir for more than $1.5 million dollars. I have no doubt that the family of the young aboriginal man who was shot to death by an Ottawa Police Officer at the Elmvale Acres Mall in Ottawa on January 31, 2019 will trigger a lawsuit against the Ottawa Police Service and the police constable responsible.

Citizens should be demanding answers to questions such as how much has the City of Ottawa paid out to litigants who successfully sued the Ottawa Police Service in the last five to ten years?  This figure shouldn’t be ferreted away in subterranean non-disclosure agreements and out of court settlements when hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake. Such information should clearly factor into any decision-making by the City when it comes to increasing or decreasing the budget of the Ottawa Police Service. What organization in the private sector would willingly pay out thousands of dollars and keep an employee on the payroll who perpetrated egregious acts of misconduct.?  Do you think they would be suspended with pay?  I don’t think so.

Taxpayers of this City should also be informed after a successful lawsuit or out of court settlement against the Ottawa Police Service as to what actions have been taken against the officers involved.  For example, have they have been fired, disciplined, sent on training or demoted and if not why not? 

Before spending a single loonie on policing, citizens should be informed of the measures that have been taken to try and reduce the number of lawsuits against the Ottawa Police Service. Police officers who have a history of charges and convictions under the Police Services Act of Ontario are a liability not only to the public but also to the economic well being of this City.  So what is the Ottawa Police Service and the Ottawa Police Services Board doing to reign in these rogue cops?  The residents of this City deserve answers and accountability from the Ottawa Police Service not another budget increase.

Darryl T Davies, Instructor, criminology and criminal justice, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University.  The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity.