• By: Dan Donovan

Excusing rape — OCPC must investigate competency of Ottawa Police Services Board

The Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) has received multiple complaints about harassment and misogyny against female officers and employees on the force for over a decade. Last Friday, it was reported by Post Media that a female Ottawa Police constable was allegedly raped by a fellow officer eight years ago. The alleged rapist is still on duty with the OPS.

The report of the alleged rape was kept ‘internal” by both the OPS and OPSB and follows the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) charging Ottawa Deputy Police Chief Uday Jaswal with six sexual misconduct offences, in March 2020. 

It is not known if Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal was involved in any internal investigation of the constable who alleges she was raped by a superior, or what Jaswal’s relationship is with the constable who is alleged to have committed the rape, if any.

Despite charges being laid, it took the OPSB ten days to remove Jaswal as deputy and OPSB Acting Chair Sandy Smallwood did not demand an immediate pay suspension for Jaswal who continues receiving his full pay and benefits. Under the Police Services Act, (S-152 ss (9) a police service board may apply to the tribunal to hold a hearing respecting the demotion or termination of employment of a chief of police or deputy chief of police of a police service maintained by the police services board. To our knowledge no such application was made until more than ten days after the board became aware of the nature and extent of the allegations against the deputy chief of police.

On May 26, 2020 in a report to the OPSB Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly reported that he was aware of 14 other cases (‘and maybe more’) of harassment and misogyny by officers at the OPS. He said OPS had launched internal investigations into two reports of sexual assault committed by members and six reports of sexual harassment in the past two years alone. During part of this period, Uday Jaswal was the Ottawa Police deputy chief.

Sloly has refused to disclose what discipline, if any, the officers faced or if the women involved are still working within the organization. He has acknowledged that it is likely there are many other incidents of sexual misconduct by officers against other OPS employees that have gone unreported. In disclosing the information he said, “I am willing to consider anything, including heavier penalties and more direct punishment, against those who continue to wilfully ignore and flout the rules and oath of office,” but in the next breath he claimed he's “learned that heavier punishment doesn't always solve the problem" and will also try “other tools such as mediation, restoration and truth and reconciliation”, depending on the circumstances.

Sloly told the OPSB that he considered the sexual harassment and misogyny complaints “an internal matter.” Not one member challenged his, ‘this is an internal matter’ narrative and none reminded him that sexual harassment and rape are criminal matters, not an internal human resources problem for him to deal with as he sees fit.

In May, Chief Sloly also reported to the OPSB that he had directed acting Deputy Chief Joan McKenna to create a plan to encourage female officers to come forward with complaints without fear of reprisal. In a blunt slap back to the ‘plan’, McKenna admitted to the media that “complainants may be reluctant to come forward to another officer at the OPS”. 

It is not known if the constable who is claiming she was allegedly raped by her superior is one of the 14 new cases as reported by Chief Sloly. He has not disclosed when he first learned of the alleged rape and who at the OPS told him. He has not disclosed if the officer accused of the alleged rape has been suspended. He has not clarified why he thinks allegations of rape are an internal human resources matter and why he has not called for an outside police force to investigate. This is especially troubling given that a separate OCPC complaint was filed against Chief Sloly and the OPS in March by another OPS officer with an unblemished disciplinary record during his twenty-year career.  He had complained to his superiors about the misogyny and harassment his spouse (also an OPS constable) is alleged to have faced from Deputy Chief Jaswal.  He claims that as soon as his wife filed the complaint, he became the target of retaliation including improper demotion and suspension of pay by OPS Chief Peter Sloly.

OPSB Acting Chair Sandy Smallwood was a member of the OPSB in 2015- 2016 when similar serious sexual harassment concerns were raised. At the time, the OPSB supressed the alleged sexual harassment crimes, by allowing the OPS to keep the matter ‘internal’ and investigate themselves. Smallwood has not disclosed whether or not was  aware of the alleged  rape of the OPS officer by a superior when he agreed with other OPSB members to keep the reports of alleged sexual harassment crimes at OPS an ‘internal‘ matter, in 2015-2016. 

Despite learning of the alleged rape of a female constable by a superior, the OPSB has still not ordered an independent outside investigation and in not doing their duty, may now be culpable in a cover up of an alleged sexual assault/rape. The OPSB have suppressed allegations of harassment and misogyny at OPS for years by allowing them to be kept as internal matters. In not meeting their legal obligation to call for an independent investigation of the OPS related to crimes within the organization, especially the alleged rape of a constable by a superior, Ottawa taxpayers are now facing another multi-million-dollar lawsuit for damages due to criminal police misconduct and OPSB incompetency.

The latest case of the alleged rape within the OPS highlights the urgent need for an OCPC investigation into the conduct and competency of the OPSB. 

There is overwhelming evidence of a systemic culture of misogyny at the OPS which includes: an alleged rape, with the alleged rapist still on the payroll and working for the OPS, the suspension of a deputy Chief on six criminal charges related to sexual harassment, 14 new cases being reported of criminal sexual harassment, an OCPC complaint against the OPS and Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly claiming that both have acted improperly. Given these facts Its clear that an outside investigator must be brought in to look at these alleged sexual crimes at the OPS.  

By not demanding an immediate outside investigation Acting OPSB Chair Sandy Smallwood and the entire board are condoning a rape and sexual misogyny culture at the OPSB. To be clear, rape is a criminal act.

Like all police service boards in Ontario, the OPSB is mandated by law to provide sufficient oversight of the police services being provided to the community. The OPSB is failing to meet their legal obligations and duties to the residents of this city as they are required to do under the Police Services Act of Ontario. It is their duty to bring in outside independent investigators regarding the alleged rape. The Ontario Civilian Police Commission should act on its own and begin a criminal investigation into the rape allegations forthwith.  In addition, the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Ontario should suspend the OPSB pending an accountability audit of their practices and decision making.