Councillor David Hill Wants Action on Vehicle Theft and Fakirani Voted Head of OPSB

During a longer-than-usual Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) meeting yesterday, the board, once again, was tasked with selecting a new chair. Since 2022, the body that governs the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has had no fewer than three appointed chairs, including former Councillor Diane Deans, former chair Councillor Eli El-Chantiry, who was brought back to reinstate stability after Deans was fired, and Dr. Gail Beck who resigned in December after her adult son was arrested in what the OPS called the largest drug bust in the city’s history.

In keeping with the trend of appointing vice-chairs and pre-existing members, a convention since Mayor Suttcliffe took office (the mayor sits on the Police Services Board), there were no surprises when the provincial board appointee and acting Chair, Salim Fakirani, replaced Dr. Beck as the head of the OPSB. There were no other nominees.

Similarly, the mayor previously supported the hiring of acting City Manager Wendy Stephanson to the position of City Manager after her tenure as interim manager ended. Rookie Councillor Marty Carr was appointed vice chair of the OPSB.

The regular OPSB meeting continued with presentations by two public delegates. The first was well-known activist Robin Browne. More notable was the somewhat unusual but impassioned delegation by Councillor for Barhaven West, David Hill. Hill addressed the drastic increase in vehicle thefts in his ward and other areas of the city, with a total of 1854 vehicles stolen last year.

Councillor Hill feels the OPS is focused on the downtown core and areas of federal responsibility, leading to a decline in police activity in the suburbs. He asked the board if the Ottawa Police Service still has a dedicated vehicle theft unit and if they could reinstate it. Hill also asked if the province had addressed resource requirements for Ottawa to tackle vehicle thefts. He questioned whether the OPS was coordinating with Public Safety Canada and other government law enforcement agencies, such as the CBSA and RCMP, to stop the rise in vehicle thefts.

Deputy Chief Trish Ferguson responded that the city had not had a vehicle theft unit since 2017, when it was shut down to shift focus to a surge in violent crimes. Ferguson added the OPS was not looking to bring the program back because existing resources were needed elsewhere in the city. She said that any new unit created would divert police resources away from other areas of need. Ferguson explained that regular OPS officers were responding to vehicle thefts and said the service has a liaison officer with the Canada Border Services Agency who partake in prevention efforts, as well as two officers on a dedicated provincial task force run by the OPP.

After the delegate presentations, Fakirani spoke about the increased volume of demonstrations in the city. While not naming causes, it was clear Fakirani was addressing the weekly Pro-Palestinian protests. Fakirani commended the OPS for their professionalism and Chief Stubbs for his transparency with the board. Fakirani also said the board would continue to push for more federal funding to deal with the demonstrations.

Before the meeting ended, Chief Stubbs addressed the tragic drowning deaths of the two high school students who walked onto the ice on the Rideau River and commended the OPS marine dive team during the search effort. Stubbs also addressed gun violence in the city, noting the arrest of a suspect for possession of an illegal handgun during a traffic stop.

Chief Stubbs continues to shift the tone of the Ottawa Police Service and appears to be more open and transparent than his predecessor, Chief Peter Sloly. With Salim Fakirani as Chair and Vice Chair Marty Carr, there will be stability at the OPSB.