• By: Dan Donovan

Not a penny more to the bloated and entitled Ottawa Police Service

Ottawa City Council will be doing a great disservice to this city if they do not freeze the police budget this week. Before giving the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) a penny more, the council should demand an independent forensic audit of the OPS budget going back to 2017. The OPS claims they cannot meet their operational requirements without more money. A mere four years ago, in 2017, the annual Ottawa Police Budget was already a booming $289 million. Since then, it has jumped to $340 million, increasing yearly by millions of dollars, according to the Annual Police Service Report:

  • In 2017, $289,226 Million
  • In 2018, $300.56 Million
  • In 2019, $304.1 Million
  • In 2020, $319.2 Million
  • In 2021, $332.5 Million
  • In 2022, $343 Million (to be voted on)

In real terms that means the OPS has received an additional $36 million in revenue since 2017 and that will jump to $47 million if they get an increase this week. To put this in perspective, the Ottawa City Budget for 2022 accounts for $4.14 billion in spending. The city has only allocated $27.5 million to non-profit social service agencies in the 2022 budget. The Ottawa Police budget increase still accounts for half of what the city pays for social services in total. Incredibly, Public Health accounts for only 3 per cent at $123 million, which is a third of the police budget.

The biggest scandal about the police budget is how much Ottawa taxpayers are shelling out in salaries for police. 82 per cent of their budget is for salaries and by any standard, they are more than well paid compared to other frontline workers.

Incredibly, the top five earners in the police department management account for $1,416,575, another 14 members make over $200k a year, and yet another 102 make between $150k and $200k. In total, their salaries alone, if cut, could be reduced easily to make up for much of the apparent funding issue shortage they claim they have. OPS Chief Peter Sloly is pulling in $369,000+ per year in Ottawa, plus he has his heavily subsidized taxpayer pension from his service at the Toronto Police Service. His OPS salary alone is more than the prime minister of Canada makes and the commissioner of the RCMP. The management team at the OPS—deputy chiefs and superintendents—are all pulling in between $219,000 to $290,000 each plus benefits. So, given their apparent budget constraint issues, the obvious question is why we are paying so much to these people and so little to Ottawa’s other frontline workers?

The real rub is that the OPS management team and the OPSB—all ‘public servants’—have the temerity to threaten that they will cut junior, racialized, and minority officers if they don’t get more money again this year. Obviously, it did not occur to them to cut either their management salaries, retire, or contain some of the more exorbitant salaries paid to their employees.

The idea that the OPS is crying ‘poor’ in budget consultations is more than a little rich. When looking at the total number of Sunshine List members for the Ottawa Police Service, there are an astonishing 1,461 Police Service Employees out of 1,967 employees (both officers and civilian employees) making over $100k per year plus benefits.

The Ottawa Police, like all police, are quick to pivot when questioned about their remuneration and justify high salaries with sayings such as policing is dangerous. That is not to say that policing is not dangerous or that police should not be paid well. Of course, they should be paid a fair wage. However, when 75 per cent of the OPS are on the Sunshine List, it indicates there is both a management and human resources problem.

The danger factor for frontline workers like police, firefighters, and healthcare workers is real. Over 90,000 healthcare workers across Canada have become sick with Covid-19 and there have been 43 deaths, including 17 in Ontario alone as of August 2021. The Ottawa Firefighters Community Association states on its website that 13 firefighters have died as a result of duty or service-related illnesses. Over the past 40 years (since 1982), two OPS officers have been killed in the line of duty in Ottawa.

The other red herring Chief Sloly and senior officers are fond of referencing is that the Ottawa Police are under-resourced if you compare this city to police forces in other cities in Canada of comparable size. This clever narrative is a mirage and factually untrue.

As the capital, Ottawa has something other jurisdictions do not have—multiple law enforcement agencies to alleviate the burden typically placed on municipal departments across the country. These include the up to 600-member Parliamentary Protective Service which guards the parliamentary precinct, the Canadian Forces Military Police, which has jurisdiction over the Department of National Defence buildings and properties in the national capital region and the OPP which also has jurisdiction in the city and controls all 400-series highways.The RCMP’s National Division holds two distinct and unique mandates compared to other police forces of jurisdiction in the area. One arm of National Division is responsible for enforcing federal acts, and conducting high-level, sensitive national and international investigations related to the protection of Canada’s economic, democratic, political and social interests. The other is responsible for safeguarding designated Canadians, foreign dignitaries, and visiting internationally protected persons (IPPs), as well as protecting designated federal properties and diplomatic missions. RCMP members operate in a frontline capacity in some instances. The RCMP Emergency Response Team, Tactical Support Group, and Protective Operations Response Unit all provide 24/7 support coverage, 365 days a year, to deliver specialized and strategic response to incidents that fall under National Division’s purview, such as protected clients and properties, diplomatic missions and federal roadways.Additionally, the RCMP National Capital Region Traffic Services Unit, has  a team of 21 members, that provides traffic enforcement and responds to motor vehicle collisions on federal roadways and properties, as well as designated park lands in the National Capital Region. All these police share one thing in common and it is that they are all paid by the same taxpayers.

On top of these are the Commissionaires—a not-for-profit security company and other private security services in Ottawa which have hundreds of employees providing security services across the national capital region. So, the idea that Ottawa does not have enough ‘police’ is a bunch of poppycock.

But do not let those facts get in the way of the back at the trough leadership of the OPS or the OPSB board that is supposed to hold them to account. If they had any shame or humility, they would first put their energy into firing the 18-20 OPS constables who are currently criminally charged and suspended with full pay for varying offences ranging from alleged rape, sexual assault, drug dealing, and money laundering, assault, and criminal conspiracy. This includes OPS Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal who was charged in 2020 with six counts of misconduct—three counts of discreditable conduct and three counts of insubordination—for allegedly sexually harassing three female Ottawa Police Service (OPS) employees. Two additional charges were filed against him in April 2021. Even Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof is awaiting trial after being criminally charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice following an OPP investigation in 2019. (He has not resigned as President of the OPA since being charged and the 1500 OPS officers he represents seem to have no issue with that).

The common retort from Chief Sloly and the OPSB is that they cannot fire police because of provincial legislation or collective bargaining agreements. But all officers take an oath when sworn in and all the suspended officers who are sitting at home watching Netflix on the taxpayer’s dime could have been fired upon being charged for breaching their oath. At the very least, they could have been suspended without pay. But that would take real leadership by the OPS or OPSB. Ironically, the OPS now say they reserve the right to suspend an OPS officer who does not get Covid vaccinated, but they will not suspend or fire an officer charged with allegedly raping a colleague or those who commit sexual assault, utter death threats, commit fraud or deal drugs while on the job.

The OPS and OPSB are supposed to act in the public interest. However, they seem to spend more time protecting ‘the thin blue line.’ How can it be that Ottawa Police Constable Eric Post was arrested and charged in fall 2018 with 32 criminal offenses coming from seven separate women and not fired or put in jail until his trial? The charges included sexual assault, forcible confinement, and uttering death threats. Instead, Post was suspended with pay from the Ottawa Police Service for two and a half years raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded salary after he was charged with committing these vile crimes. During a virtual court hearing on April 1, 2021 (why did it take 30 months to get to court??) Post pleaded guilty to four charges of assault and one charge of uttering threats. The charges were from four of the seven women. The additional 27 charges were dropped, which included charges relating to one woman who subsequently committed suicide in September 2020. One of the victims of Post says that because he was a police officer, she believes police wanted to protect one of their own. “They made excuses for him,” she told the CBC. Post got a deal with the Crown which involved him resigning from the OPS and being sentenced to probation (no jail time). His victims were outraged and are still living in fear of him. Sadly, and perversely, the OPS thinks his resignation is a win. Oh, and did I mention after resigning he still gets his heavily subsidized taxpayer-funded pension.

Then there is the matter of the firing last April of the top financial officer at the OPS. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Jeff Letourneau was relieved of his duties on Monday, April 12, 2021, in a unanimous decision by the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB). Incredibly Diane Deans, the Chair of the OPSB and ‘hair on fire’ councilor, who has called for full transparency on all financial matters regarding the Ottawa Light Rail Train debacle has refused to provide any details on why Letourneau was fired citing “the confidential nature of personnel matters.” Hypocrisy knows no better name.

It is beyond incredible that not one city councilor has called for an independent forensic audit of the OPS budget after the top financial officer was fired for misuse of funds and resources. Then there is the question of the millions of dollars in settlements to victims of OPS police misconduct and their lawyers’ fees which the OPSB refuses to disclose. The estimates go as high as $20 million going back less than a decade. Despite this and despite over 70 officers being charged over the past six years, not one has been fired. Similarly, the OPSB and OPS Chief Peter Sloly will not disclose the specifics of the amount of money paid to the Abdirahman family to avoid a civil suit after he was beaten to death by two OPS officers in 2016. Sources have told Ottawa Life Magazine that the amount exceeds $1 million. The officers who killed him are still on the force and make the claim they were cleared in court of the criminal charge. So, if there was no wrongdoing by these officers, why are taxpayers paying the family a reported million-dollar settlement. Conversely, if it were deemed that Constable Daniel Montsion could have been convicted for wrongdoing in a civil case brought on by the Abdirahman case and a settlement was paid by the OPSB to avoid that, why is Montsion still a cop?

The OPS annual reports do not have a section where they disclose the full annual cost to the OPS for each case of misconduct. They do not disclose in any transparent way the amount of money paid to victims of police misconduct or fees paid to the lawyers representing them.

Despite all this, the leadership of the OPS has the chutzpah (or arrogance) to appear in hearings and demand a $14-million increase. After 70 separate people representing key constituencies in the city present submissions saying they should not get a penny more, they are ignored. Then, in typical fashion for this council, a so-called ‘deal’ is reached to give the OPS $11 million instead of $14 million. To top it off, the OPS and Chief Sloly then treat this so called ‘deal’ like it is them doing us a favour.

No taxpayer-funded agency in Ottawa is more out of tune with the public than the Ottawa Police Service and Ottawa Police Service Board. Look no further than OPS Chief Peter Sloly's preposterous announcement last month (with the full support of OPA President Matt Skof and the OPSB) that OPS officers did not need to be Covid vaccinated. In keeping with the ongoing theme of dismissing what informed people in the community say to them, the OPS Covid policy completely ignored expert advice, guidance, and recommendations from the most senior public health officials in the City of Ottawa and the federal government which mandated all public sector employees be vaccinated or face consequences, including unpaid leave or termination.

How anyone in the OPS or OPSB could think that was a reasonable announcement given how Covid has ravished this community is beyond the pale. Worse was that this dribble was coming from the very same OPS Chief and OPSB who were saying at that very same time that unless the OPS got an increase of $14 million for budget 2022 (to add to their already bloated budget), they would not be able to meet their operational commitments. Despite this, Chief Sloly, OPSB Chair Diane Deans, and the OPSB determined it was a sound decision not to have police vaccinated in the middle of a pandemic and instead, were to spend (waste) hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to implement rapid antigen tests every 72 hours at OPS testing sites. Of course, the tests are not required if police are vaccinated.

Typically, OPSB Chair Diane Deans rubber-stamped the policy and went along with the OPS announcement claiming it was outside the OPSB authority (it was not!). After the initial public outrage, Mayor Jim Watson weighed in and Chief Sloly had to immediately reverse course on the obtuse policy. Within a day it was announced that all OPS members must be vaccinated. Chief Sloly announced the reversal of policy with this zinger saying, “The OPS has always been working to achieve 100 per cent vaccination for all our members. That is what this policy is about — providing a safe, effective, and responsive police service for the people of Ottawa.” It begs the question, why announce a policy that went against all the public health recommendations from the city and federal government in the first place? And why did Diane Deans and the OPSB go along with the charade?

After the embarrassing policy reversal OPSB Chair Diane Deans had the temerity to describe what happened as ‘leadership,’ saying, “Great leaders sometimes change their minds and I think that Chief Sloly is a strong leader and he recognized the need to change direction on this and that’s what he did. I applaud him for that.” Her comment reminded me of a line by the famous satirist Stephen Wright who said, “Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until they speak.”

Mayor Jim Watson took to Twitter to express his satisfaction with the shift, writing, “Thanks to Chief Sloly for listening to the residents of our city and for the swift action to implement this policy.” It is quite obvious Chief Sloly was not listening to expert advice regarding the OPS vaccine policy, just as he and the OPSB weren’t listening to what community groups and citizens were telling them at the police budget consultations. The mayor set him straight on the Covid vaccines. Now the council should grow a spine and do the same on the police budget.