The Regional Municipality of York Police Services Board
Bill 175, Safer Ontario Act
Submission to Standing Committee on Justice Policy
The Regional Municipality of York Regional Police Services Board (the “Board”) is the governing body of the third largest municipal police service in Ontario. York Regional Police serves over 1.1 million residents and is comprised of over 2,200 police officers and civilian support staff. The Board is pleased to see changes in the new Bill which support stronger governance and more transparency from police services and all oversight bodies including police services boards. Creating measures to increase public confidence and trust in the police and in oversight bodies is a critical objective. The Board urges the Ontario Government to pass Bill 175 and to make long-awaited changes to policing and governance in Ontario. Our Board has been very involved in the consultation process with multiple written submissions and meetings with Ministers Lalonde and Naqvi and Justice Michael Tulloch.
We urge the Province to evaluate costs associated with any pending changes to the legislation. It will be very difficult to ensure that our communities receive the highest quality policing services and strong governance bodies if we continue to rely on the municipal tax base. As you are aware, 90 percent of municipal police funding is derived from the tax levy. It is well known that the citizens of Ontario pay the highest policing costs in the country (about 20 percent higher). Our Board also urges the Ontario Government to allocate appropriate funding to police services boards to ensure boards are set up to succeed. Boards need to have access to resources and expertise to fulfill their mandate. Boards also needs independent resources and support to conduct its own research to support evidence-based decision making.
Proposals in Bill 175
1. Mandatory Training for Police Services Board
Overall, Bill 175 includes many recommendations submitted by the Board during the consultation phases of the Strategy for a Safer Ontario and the Independent Police Oversight Review. One of these recommendations is the provision of mandatory governance training to police services boards which will include human rights and systemic racism training for board members. The Board is very supportive of this provision. However, details of the prescribed training have not been provided yet, and it is not known at this time if the training costs will be borne by police services boards. The Board urges the Government to provide appropriate resources and funding to boards to enable boards to receive critical training in order to meet their statutory obligations and to govern effectively.
2. Effective Police Services Boards
Bill 175 also provides for the prescription of competencies for board members which was a recommendation of the Board. The Board supports the proposal that Boards possess a list of competencies to meet their mandates effectively. Police Services Boards serve the public’s interests; therefore, the Board urges the Government to consult with Boards when making appointments. The Board also supports language to ensure that positions on boards do not remain vacant. To avoid this issue, perhaps the Government will consider using similar language used for municipal appointments on police services boards.
3. Board Direction to the Chief
In its submissions, the Board sought more clarity on boards giving direction to the chief with respect to operational matters, and the draft legislation provides some clarity on this issue. The Bill addresses the Board’s ability to discipline a sworn member. However, it is unclear in the Bill whether the Board can provide direction on the discipline of a specific civilian member. In that regard, the Board supports the proposal by Durham Regional Police Services Board which
states that the Board should not direct the Chief on the discipline of any specific members, other than as it relates to the Chief and Deputy Chief. The Board should maintain its focus on policy, governance and oversight functions. It is also unclear whether all direction from the board needs to be in writing in the form of policy which would promote transparency, accountability and consistency.
4. Diversity Plans
Bill 175 contains a strong focus on diversity in policing and in police oversight including support, standards and resources for First Nations policing who opt into the Act. The Board supports the steps the Province is taking in this direction.
Under the new legislation, municipalities must develop and approve a diversity plan for appointing board members to ensure that boards are representative of the diversity of the population. The municipality must take appropriate steps to promote vacancies to groups historically underrepresented on the Board including indigenous groups and racialized groups. The Board is very supportive of this provision; however, it is unclear if the Province will also be required to comply with the municipality’s diversity plan when making appointments. Restricting the diversity plan to municipal appointments limits the effectiveness of such a plan and can minimize the diversity on a police board. The legislation should require the Province to have regard for the diversity plan in making its appointments. Boards should also be involved in the development of Diversity Plans.
5. Community-Safety Plans
Bill 175 requires boards and municipalities to be more involved in community safety planning. In its previous submissions, the Board called for a collaborative, multi-sector approach to community safety with shared responsibilities among the stakeholders, government ministries and levels of government. Boards will also be required to consider the municipality’s Community Safety and Well-Being Plan when developing its Strategic Plan. The Board supports this
Municipalities will also be required to establish advisory committees with Board representation included on the committee. Boards should have a prominent role and presence in the development of Community-Safety Plans and in the development of Diversity Plans. The Board urges the Province to allocate appropriate funding to boards to support this initiative which can create a significant burden on its current resources. The Board also urges the Province to include the Chief or his or her designate on the Advisory Committee.
6. Civilianization and Outsourcing
The Board supports AMO’s proposals with respect to civilianization (pages 3 & 4 in Attachment 1). The Board supports the inclusion of alternate service delivery options. Where a police officer is not required to perform a task or function, the flexibility to hire non-police personnel or outsource to alternate service providers to do that function is critical to sustainable and efficient police services. A modern policing model includes a variety of service providers all working together on common goals and to achieve the same results. Boards should have the flexibility to deliver police services in the best way possible, including having regard to financial considerations. The Board also supports providing the same levels of governance and oversight for alternate service providers.
7. Inspector General
The Board supports the changes to the legislation which enhance transparency, accountability and governance including the establishment of the Inspector General (IG) role to oversee and monitor police services and police services boards in the public interest. The Inspector General would be provided with a mandate to ensure the delivery of adequate and effective policing while also having the power to receive and review complaints against police services boards, board members and chiefs of police. However, the Board urges the Province to ensure that this additional level of oversight does not cause more confusion about the roles of various review bodies. This confusion was outlined in the Board’s submission in 2016. Boards need to continue to be the primary oversight body with respect to police services and chiefs of police and the IG role should be supportive of the Board’s primary function. The Board urges the Province to communicate clearly with the public on the various roles and functions of oversight bodies.
8. Collective Bargaining Committee
There is little in the Bill that addresses the Board’s concerns on the collective bargaining and interest arbitration process. For example, there is no change in the composition of the police services board bargaining committee in the Bill. The Board calls upon the Legislature to reconsider the status quo on this matter. Boards should have the flexibility in determining the composition of its bargaining committee. This is critical to ensuring that boards have a fair and strong opportunity in negotiations. In addition, the new legislation should allow for exclusions of certain key positions from bargaining units such as the Finance Manager and HR Manager who are often relied upon by Boards during negotiations.
9. Suspension without Pay
For many years, police boards and police chiefs have strongly advocated for suspension without pay. Ontario is the only province in Canada in which police chiefs do not have the discretion to suspend police officers without pay when the officer is charged with an offence or even convicted of an offence if the conviction is under appeal. The Board supports the provisions in Bill 175 which expand the criteria for which an officer can be suspended without pay; however, there are still restrictions. Suspension without pay is allowable only after criminal convictions or for serious off-duty offences which will likely result in dismissal. Our Board feels that the Chief should have more discretion when it comes to the discipline of a police officer than what is currently proposed in Bill 175.
10. Additional Comments:
- The Board supports changes to the legislation which enhance mental health supports and which take steps to reduce police intervention in calls regarding people in crisis and the new legislation should provide for the most effective and appropriate response to people in crisis.
- The Board supports the provisions with respect to closed meetings. This will allow for more transparency and clarity when it comes to reporting to the public. .
- The Board is also supportive of the extension of the probationary period of police constables to 18 months from 12 months.
- The Board supported mandatory post-secondary education for officers and the new Bill includes new educational criteria for the appointments of police officers. The Board further contends, however, that potential recruits complete an accredited program before being hired by the Board similar to most professions including doctors, nurses, lawyers and engineers. This is one of several recommendations made to the Ministry to assist with controlling the very expensive costs to police communities and to support the professionalization of policing.
11. Bill 175 and Labour Relations
While the Board feels that the legislative changes to policing and oversight will modernize the framework in Ontario, there is an opportunity for the Province to create more efficiencies and to develop a stronger model for sustainability as it relates to labour relations. As stated by numerous stakeholders, the high cost of policing will have an impact on the ability to deliver effective police services to communities. There are many recommendations including changes to interest arbitration that are supported by the Board, the Ontario Association of Police Services Board and other stakeholders but have not been included in Bill 175 many of which are set out in Attachment 2 – a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy by the Emergency Services Steering Committee. This submission along with AMO’s submission (Attachment 1) are supported by our Board.
The Board appreciates the opportunity to provide the Standing Committee with feedback on Bill 175. Our Board has been very involved in the review of the Police Services Act and commends the Ontario Government for taking this opportunity to modernize the legislative and regulatory framework and to create a fairer and more accountable police oversight model. The new Bill offers Boards the opportunity to make significant policy changes that will enable more effectiveness, accountability and transparency.Attachment 1 Attachment 2 Back to What's New