Eli El-Chantiry, Vern White and Steve Boucher, do the honourable thing: Resign.
Ottawa is in the midst of a serious confidence crisis in its police force in the wake of disturbing video footage in which citizens were brutally treated by a few police officers. Furthermore, the actions of three of its critical stakeholders have elevated the temperature to the point where it is seriously damaging the reputation of the Ottawa Police Service and, by association, other police forces in the region. This, at a time when policing across Canada has been tarnished by incidents of improper conduct. The common denominator appears to be the result of poor judgment, poor training, poor leadership and weak oversight of the police forces in question.
Here in Ottawa, we should all be concerned that Councillor Eli El-Chantiry remains as the Chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board. El-Chantiry freely admits he is friends with Ottawa Police Chief Vern White and that he attended Chief White’s wedding in Finland. While this, in normal circumstances, would be of little consequence, it does raise issues of judgment and cronyism. At the time of his wedding, Chief White had apparently just offered his resignation over his mishandling of several incidents involving inexcusable police conduct (including the now infamous assault on Stacy Bonds.) A hearty pat on the back and toasts over champagne were probably not what the people of Ottawa were calling for when they demanded closer supervision of our police.
Rather, White’s resignation should have been accepted to restore confidence in our police force. Did Chief White present his resignation to the full membership of the Ottawa Police Services Board or just to his good friend the Chairman? If it was considered by the entire Board, the Board should resign for bad judgment. Mayor Watson should also demand Eli El-Chantiry’s resignation to restore confidence in the oversight authority of the police in Ottawa.
What is also disturbing about Stacy Bonds’ case is that no one seems to have asked Chief White when he first saw the video of her assault. If he did not see it before it was shown to the judge, he is completely incompetent. If he did, it means upon seeing it he did nothing which is even worse!
The inappropriate behaviour of Chair El-Chantiry and, by extension, of the Ottawa Police Services Board, is breathtaking. It discredits the professional police officers on the Ottawa force and taints them all with the same brush. This is the consequence of the failure of the Board to act, of the Chief to resign voluntarily and of Mr. El-Chantiry’s poor judgment.
On the subject of poor judgment, consider the actions of the President of the Ottawa Police Association, Steve Boucher. In responding to Justice Lajoie, who, in his ruling stated that Stacy Bonds’ treatment by Ottawa police was an “indignity to a human being,” Mr. Boucher stated that he believes (and I guess he is speaking on behalf of all Ottawa Police Association members) that the judge’s comments led “to the negative press and the wedge it has driven between us and the community we serve faithfully day in and day out.”
I can honestly say that in all the years I have been covering Ottawa issues I’ve rarely heard of a more arrogant and self-serving statement. We live by the principle that the police are not above the law. By ignoring the facts and attacking a judge who was doing his job, Mr. Boucher has besmirched his entire organization. Worse, he has defended improper police conduct and re-victimized a woman who was brutally assaulted by what I can only describe as a rogue group of constables in the Ottawa Police Force. He has clearly aligned himself and his union with this rogue element. Every one of them should be dismissed.
The only thing that is driving a wedge between the Police and the community they serve is the deafening silence by the Police Association membership in not challenging Boucher’s outrageous remarks.
This is what has deeply undermined the credibility of all members of the Ottawa Police Force. This is where the wedge between the Ottawa Police Service and the community stems. My dad was in the policing business for 38 years. He trained police and he served. He tells me that there are probably many police who are serving in the Ottawa Force who are equally appalled by both White and Boucher. Well, their silence is deafening. Supporting our police officers and demanding they conduct themselves with a high level accountability and professionalism are not mutually exclusive propositions. After all, we provide them with extraordinary powers and discretion under the auspices of keeping our community safe.
As a starting point to rebuilding the trust of Ottawa residents in their police services, Steve Boucher, Vern White and Eli El-Chantiry should all resign. Before they do, however, they might each wish to sign a letter of apology to Stacy Bonds.