Ombudsman calls for amendments to policing bill to ensure effective civilian oversight
February 22, 2018
22 February, 2018
Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today flagged several gaps in the province’s proposed new policing legislation, warning that they could undermine its promise of stronger civilian oversight of police.
Paul Dubé flags need for mandatory de-escalation training, limits on ex-police staff
(TORONTO, February 22, 2018) – Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today flagged several gaps in the province’s proposed new policing legislation, warning that they could undermine its promise of stronger civilian oversight of police.
In a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, which is reviewing Bill 175, the Safer Ontario Act, 2017, Mr. Dubé says he is encouraged that it incorporates many longstanding recommendations by his office to improve public confidence in police. These include:
Extending Ombudsman oversight to all of the province’s police oversight agencies (at present, the Ombudsman only has jurisdiction over the Special Investigations Unit, which handles police-involved deaths or serious injuries);
Supporting these agencies through standalone legislation that clarifies their roles, and
Requiring SIU Director’s reports to be disclosed when charges are not laid.
However, the Ombudsman cautioned that amendments to the bill are still needed, particularly to ensure police co-operation with oversight bodies and guard against perceived pro-police bias amongst their staff. His submission flags that:
Section 33 of the SIU’s new legislation says police must co-operate with the agency “unless it is impracticable to do so” – language that risks undermining its authority;
The lack of limits on how many investigators and other staff the agencies can employ who have a policing background “means that police oversight organizations could include serving officers or be primarily constituted of former police officers”;
The bill should ensure any former officers working for the agencies are prohibited from handling cases involving their former colleagues; and
Non-disclosure provisions in the bill could impede Ombudsman investigations.
The Ombudsman also stressed the need to recognize the government’s commitment – made in response to his 2016 report, A Matter of Life and Death – to train and require police to use de-escalation techniques when dealing with persons who have a mental illness or are otherwise in crisis. “If the objective of this legislation is to make Ontario safer, a new use-of-force model that requires officers to use de-escalation in dealing with persons in crisis, and mandated de-escalation training, are key missing pieces.”
Mr. Dubé’s submission includes suggested wording for amendments to the bill before it returns to the Legislative Assembly for third reading and a vote.
For more information, contact:
Linda Williamson, Director of Communications
Read more about the Ombudsman’s work on police oversight: