Ottawa has high, even ‘impossible’, expectations for its next police chief: community consultation report

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A community consultation has determined that Ottawans want their next police chief to possess an “impossible” combination of attributes.

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The consultation, which was conducted by Hefid Solutions at the behest of the Ottawa Police Services Board, garnered more than 1,400 responses to an online survey and included in-person and virtual meetings with community members.

Ultimately, the query generated such a wide variety of responses that, in a report presented to the board at a meeting on Monday, Hefid Solutions concluded that the perfect head of the Ottawa Police Service might not exist.

The online survey asked respondents if they thought the next boss should be “an agent of change,” a “capable manager,” or “an experienced person dealing with complex problems,” among other attributes.

Respondents were nearly unanimous in rating all attributes as important. The report recognized that “having a single person who possesses all the attributes is impossible.”

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Margaret Campbell, head of municipal and public sector practice at executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, which the OPSB hired to help them find a new boss, said Hefid Solutions’ inquiries and report would help inform the firm as it searched. potential. candidates.

However, the report drew criticism from some who questioned its usefulness.

“Asking the community for their opinion on the hiring of the next chief when we know that the process is very internal to the police board and the police service, in my opinion, it is almost dishonest to suggest that people will have an opinion because we know that the people are just going to suggest polarized opposing viewpoints,” Inez Hillel, an economist and co-founder of Vivic Research, said in an interview.

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The survey data, which Hefid Solutions made available online, revealed thousands of comments detailing what the firm’s respondents wanted in Ottawa’s next police chief. Respondents ranged from “Freedom Convoy” supporters critical of PAHO’s response to the protests earlier this year, to those who wanted a complete defunding of the service and others who wanted police funding increased.

The survey, available in English and French but no other languages, was also intended to help the board determine priorities for Ottawa’s next police chief. Respondents highlighted reducing gun violence and increasing police accountability as top priorities. A third of those surveyed also said they were concerned about OPS staffing levels and that the service would not be able to keep up with policing Ottawa as the city continues to grow.

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Seven percent of those who responded to the survey said they worked for PAHO.

Hillel said the report also did not identify who provided information and comments.

“They’re taking all these final recommendations and just lumping them together without paying attention to who’s saying what,” he said, “and I think that’s where a really important part of this engagement is missing.”

Hector Addison, director of Hefid Solutions, told the board on Monday that the report did not reveal the identities or details of the people involved in the inquiry for privacy reasons.

The police board approved the hiring of Hefid Solutions in May to conduct the consultation at an estimated cost of $76,500, with $7,500 of that amount budgeted for fee payments: payments of $50 provided to some participants as a sample in exchange for their participation.

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Addison said Monday that Hefid Solutions had gone over budget on fee payments, spending $11,100 because, he said, inquiries had reached more people than expected.

When asked by board member Cathy Curry if she could provide receipts for those payments, Addison said no, but suggested she could provide a list of participants to the OPSB.

Mandi Pekan, a community mental health professional and director of the Street Resilience Project, which focuses on black and radicalized men’s experiences with the police, said the consultation failed to reach those most affected by policing.

“This report really offers this fantastic, fictional story of how we can make the police more compassionate to restore our trust in the police, but it also fails to understand that the problems we face are systemic and cannot be changed by the actions of individual officers. and an individual police chief,” he said. “Essentially, we have spent nearly $76,000 on a report that fails to address the almost inherent problems of surveillance.”

OPS has been without a boss since Peter Sloly resigned amid criticism that the service wasn’t doing enough to police “Freedom Convoy” protesters downtown earlier this year. Since Sloly’s resignation, Steve Bell has held the position on an interim basis.

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