Community groups mark the beginning of Black History Month by filing complaint against the Ottawa Police Services Board

February 2, 2022 – Ottawa – Several Ottawa groups have filed a formal complaint against the Ottawa Police Services Board for failing to fulfill its legal obligation to provide adequate and effective policing to all Ottawa citizens. 

The complaint, filed with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, stems from the Board’s Jan. 24, 2022 approval of $2 million for the Ottawa Police Service to buy conducted energy weapons.

The complaint argues that the approval was a serious dereliction of the Board’s duty to provide adequate and effective policing as:

  1. The Board is currently undertaking a review of the OPS’ use-of-force and should, therefore, not have approved the purchase of any new weapons of force until the review is complete.
  2. The OPS has said it’s not allowed to disclose its race-related use-of-force data publicly as that is the purview of the Ontario Solicitor General. However, the Ontario Solicitor General confirmed that the OPS possesses this data and is mandated to publicly report on it. When the Hub revealed this at the meeting, and Board member Sandy Smallwood asked for it, OPS Chief Sloly immediately committed to providing it at the Board’s February meeting. The Board should not have approved new CEWs before receiving the use-of-force race data to see if the OPS is using CEWs disproportionately on racialized Ottawa residents.  

Finally, the complaint argues the Board didn’t require the OPS to produce proof of its two main justifications for the use of CEWs:

  1. That they reduce shootings; and
  2. That multiple coroners’ reports have recommended CEW use.

The community groups say that, at the very least, the Board should have waited until it received the OPS’ use-of-force race data at its February meeting as the Board’s decisions must be research based. CEWS have been used in Ontario since the early 2000s yet police, and police-involved, fatalities continue to increase in the province. Research shows CEWs are not reducing police-involved fatalities nor police shootings. As the Ottawa Police Service’s evaluation of its own CEW use hasn’t been updated since 2015, the Board had no basis on which to conclude that CEWs would increase – or decrease – the adequateness and effectiveness of the service the OPS provides – and that was a direct violation of the Board’s legal obligation.

“We’re starting Black History Month just after the Board approved $2 million for weapons without knowing whether the police are using them more on Black and Indigenous people”,  said 613-819 Black Hub co-lead, Robin Browne. “Approving funds for police weapons like this flies in the face of widespread calls from community groups to disarm and defund the police in order to invest more in supports that actually enhance community well-being and safety”.

The Board must be held accountable for taking this action that clearly goes against its mandate.

The complaint was filed by the 613-819 Black Hub, Criminalization and Punishment Education Project, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Coalition Against More Surveillance, Horizon Ottawa and Roots and Culture Canada.