Source : The Spec
March 23, 2010
The Hamilton Spectator
(Mar 23, 2010)
Hamilton Police Services Board is backing a proposal to permit police chiefs to suspend officers facing criminal charges without pay if a chief deems the offence serious enough.
The proposal comes from a white paper prepared in February by the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. The Hamilton board agreed to join other boards in asking Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci to amend a section of the Police Services Act that only permits a chief to suspend an officer facing a criminal offence with pay.
Police Chief Glenn De Caire said there is no particular event that led the chief's association to push for this, but it has been sought for a long time and was recently advanced by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. He said the idea is not to penalize an officer who might face charges in the performance of his duties, but for something "so egregious" outside of work, such as charges of sexual assault and homicide.
"Those are cases where a chief needs to have the ability to suspend without pay," De Caire said.
Hamilton has recently had some high-profile cases of officers facing charges related to their duties under the Police Services Act. One former senior officer faces a raft of corruption charges relating to the alleged theft of $60,000 from various police funds, but that officer retired before charges were laid. A couple of Hamilton officers face criminal charges in connection with alleged domestic assaults.
The force has 787 officers.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger called the proposal "a wise step." The mayor indicated it would "calm citizens" who have expressed concern about officers being paid while facing a criminal charge.
"It's a position that's long overdue," the mayor told the board. "I've always been understanding we are tied by the Police Services Act, even when we sit here and say, 'This isn't right.' Clearly, there should be a process to suspend pay."
However, Mike Thomas, president of the Hamilton Police Association, said the proposal "flies in the face of fundamental justice" where a person is innocent until proven guilty. He also has concerns about leaving such a discretionary decision up to a police chief and notes there is no appeal mechanism with a chief's decision.
"To a police officer, anything under the Criminal Code is a serious circumstance," said Thomas.
He notes the white paper, quoting Chief Blair, says the move is not about money. But Thomas points out the white paper includes cases of four Ontario police forces dealing with charged officers and details how much they spent in pay and benefits until charges were dealt with by the courts or the officer left the force. It amounted to more than $1.3 million.
"Don't you think that's strange?" said Thomas. "It is about money."