London Police Services Board members voted Thursday to ask the province to allow chiefs of police to be able to suspend officers without pay in certain circumstances.
More specifically, the board is asking the province to declare in force existing sections of the Community Safety and Policing Act that would allow chiefs of police the discretion to suspend an officer charged with, or convicted of a serious offence without pay.
The board is also asking that the province further amend legislation to “streamline the process for termination of a police officer who is found guilty of serious or criminal misconduct.”
“When police officers do criminal acts, it’s very damaging and to have them on paid leave while all this is being investigated, which can go on for years and years and years, just makes it more and more damaging, I think, overall to the public’s trust in police,” said board member and city councillor Jesse Helmer.
Helmer added that the request to allow chiefs of police to suspend officers without pay is not a new ask.
“This is essentially the same position the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police took seven years ago, calling on the previous provincial government to make this option available to chiefs to be used in circumstances that warrant it.”
As well, allowing chiefs of police discretion to suspend without pay in certain circumstances doesn’t require new legislation, but that existing sections of the Community Safety and Policing Act be declared in force.
“Hopefully the province will get on with it and enact that change that’s already been passed,” Helmer added at Thursday’s meeting.
Vice-chair and lawyer Susan Toth supported the motion, but stressed the importance of ensuring fairness and transparency.
“In my day job, one of the things that I do as workplace investigations, and the top three things that we look for in a proper workplace investigation and that I think there’s some parallels here are that the investigation be independent, third-party, transparent, expeditious.”
Board member Jeff Lang says he believes the tool would be used infrequently, but that it is a valuable tool for the chief to have.
“This would really be in very unique circumstances and typically these unique circumstances become highly public and publicly charged. And I think giving the chief discretion is appropriate.”
Rick Robson, executive director of the London Police Association, says he’s “not suggesting that the amendment to the act related to suspension without pay is inappropriate or unnecessary” but he believes “lobbying the government for enactment of one article of a broader piece of a complicated legislation” is unlikely to achieve results.
“Our efforts would be better spent collaboratively as opposed on this one singular issue,” he said.
The motion was approved by the board on Thursday.