G-20 repercussions: Promotions denied, but still not enough

“…the Toronto Police Services Board… has denied promotions to nine constables. All were involved in last year’s G20 fiasco. Chief Bill Blair recommended they be “reclassified” – awarded a higher rank and a salary increase – despite removing their name tags so they could not be identified or held responsible for their actions.”

“…from the public’s point of view, it is essential to have a civilian oversight body that can say no to the chief, no to the police union and no to the promotion of police officers it believes have shown questionable judgment or character.”

Very true.

However, an arbitrator may rule otherwise where promotions are concerned. And if so, then we need to make amendments to the Ontario Police Services Act to allow the Toronto Police Board to disallow promotions where the officers involved have displayed lapses in judgement resulting in abuse or disrespect towards the public.

In any event, an automatic “right” to a promotion is not a bright idea where people with guns and powers of arrest are concerned.

The Toronto Star’s editorial headline is misleading, in my opinion. The Toronto Police Services Board is more of an administrative overseer than an enforcer; that job belongs to the provinces Special Investigations Unit.

During my twenty years of filing grievances for CUPE Local 79, I sometimes came upon clauses in the collective agreement that were so weak, I wondered what was the point of having them there. The answer was that the weak wording had been agreed to as the best available at the time, and the intention was to improve upon it in future rounds of bargaining.

Sometimes there was no follow-up at all, and they became what I call “orphan clauses”.

And that is exactly what the legislation governing the Special Investigations Unit is: An “orphan clause”, sitting there, waiting for someone to come along to strengthen it so it can carry out its intended function.

Let’s make this a campaign issue, and get all politicians to be aware that the SIU has to be given teeth or else it is utterly pointless. And we won’t vote for them unless they acknowledge that.

The ease with which police chiefs can evade the SIU at the present time utterly defies the purpose of our having it.

Jeff Goodall.

Police watchdog shows independence

Toronto Star Editorial: September 3rd, 2011

It’s good to see the Toronto Police Services Board showing some spunk. For the first time, the civilian oversight body has denied promotions to nine constables. All were involved in last year’s G20 fiasco. Chief Bill Blair recommended they be “reclassified” — awarded a higher rank and a salary increase — despite removing their name tags so they could not be identified or held responsible for their actions.

This is the kind of accountability Torontonians have been waiting to see. It is a welcome departure from the board’s past practice of rubber-stamping promotions put forward by the chief.

The union representing the officers is outraged. It has filed a grievance against the police board, contending that it is not the civilian oversight agency’s job to interfere with police promotions. “Through the collective agreement and past practices, if the chief recommends you go up, you go up,” says union president Mike McCormack.

This is nonsense. The board is under no obligation to accept the chief’s recommendations. Its job is to assess the merits of the proposal and make a reasoned decision. As its chair Alok Mukherjee pointed out, a promotion is a reward, not an entitlement.

Other critics of the police board have raised more substantive arguments. They point out that it is contrary to police policy to punish an officer twice for the same offence. The officers in question were handed a one-day suspension without pay for removing their name tags during the G20 summit. They also submit that it is contrary to the Ontario Police Services Act to withhold promotions as a disciplinary measure.

An arbitrator will have to decide these matters. But from the public’s point of view, it is essential to have a civilian oversight body that can say no to the chief, no to the police union and no to the promotion of police officers it believes have shown questionable judgment or character.

City hall insiders have tried to portray the board’s move as a vote of non-confidence in Blair. It is certainly a rare public disagreement. But the G20 was a rare event: demonstrators were beaten, bystanders were arrested, and protesters were denied their constitutional rights. Hundreds of people were detained for hours without being charged.

Fifteen months later – with half a dozen inquiries still underway – Torontonians are no closer to knowing who authorized this kind of policing and who is responsible for what happened.

The police board’s action, though small, sends the right signal to the public and the police.

See original here

See “Police ‘Special Investigations Unit’ outrage” here

Contact Premier Dalton McGuinty here

Contact Conservative Leader Tim Hudak here

Contact NDP Leader Andrea Horvath here.

Contact Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner here.

See a list of Ontario MPPs with contact information here.

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