Ottawa police board meeting disrupted by activists demanding answers

Ottawa police said late Monday that an unidentified person had been charged with causing a disturbance after “several individuals became combative, verbally abused members of the public and refused to leave the premises” after the meeting. .

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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs were confronted Monday at their first police services board meeting by local activists who disrupted the proceedings with what they called an act of civil disobedience.

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“We are done being ignored while you ignore basic democratic principles,” announced Robin Browne, co-director of the 613-819 Black Hub, during what was supposed to be a five-minute presentation to the board. “So tonight, things are going to play out a little differently.”

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He said he would not get up from his chair in a town hall committee room until the board answered four questions his colleague posed.

Bailey Gauthier demanded to know if the board would return to a hybrid structure for its meetings, allowing delegations online (now they must be face-to-face); whether the police would be included in the mayor’s promise of a line-by-line audit of city council budgets; whether the board would freeze the police budget until the audit was completed; and if he would commission an independent review of the police service based on human rights.

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“With all due respect, I will not leave this chair until you answer our questions,” Browne announced.

After repeatedly refusing requests to leave and let the board get on with its work, acting board president Suzanne Valiquet adjourned the meeting for 15 minutes.

Then, with Browne and Gauthier still in their chairs at the committee table and with their microphones muted, the board went through the key points on their agenda in less than five minutes without discussion.

Later Monday night, police said in a Twitter post that an unidentified person had been charged with causing a disturbance after “several individuals became combative, verbally abused members of the public and refused to leave the premises.” facilities” after the close of the meeting. , with police officers helping security at the scene.

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The accused person was released on the condition that he not return to the City Hall building on Laurier Avenue West, police said.

It marks the second time in the past week that members of the public have disrupted a public meeting.

Last Tuesday, a meeting of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board was unable to vote on imposing mask rules after people who opposed such mandates heckled and jeered. The police were called, the meeting was moved online and the vote was delayed.

Monday’s police board meeting approved Sutcliffe’s appointment to two police board committees and the appointment of some special constables.

It was then abruptly suspended based on a motion by board member Michael Doucet without considering a series of reports on human rights, racial profiling and workplace management.

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The workplace management report notes that the police service will send a class of 30 recruits to the Ontario Police College next month as it ramps up hiring to offset an unexpected increase in the number of retirements.

It will be the third and largest class of recruits to begin the process to become Ottawa Police Officers in 2022.

The police service projects annual retirements based on historical averages and demographics, but the 2022 figures caught officials by surprise: The 25 retirements this year were two and a half times the historical average of 10 per year.

“This can be attributed to multiple factors, including members choosing to delay retirement during the height of the pandemic, opportunities at other organizations, and personal issues,” according to the workforce management report.

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The report made no mention of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa for a month and pushed many police officers to the brink.

In his testimony about the Emergencies Act investigation, former chief Peter Sloly said officers faced “inhumane circumstances” during the protest. “It was too cold and too much, but they did the best they could,” Sloly said, adding that misinformation about his job crushed officer morale.

The workplace management report said Ottawa will have hired 83 new officers by the end of this year. Those recruited in April are expected to be fully trained and deployed in January, while those recruited in August will begin serving in May 2023. The first two classes of recruits include 14 racialized men, 12 non-racialized men, one Indigenous man and seven women.

The 30 new recruits entering police school in December will require about nine months of training and add $1.7 million to the service’s annual budget.

Stubbs has said that staffing will be one of his priorities as Ottawa’s new police chief.

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