Surveillance agency shuts down most of Ottawa police complaints amid truck convoy protest

The protest in the truck convoy that burned the streets of Ottawa and tested residents’ patience for weeks led to an unprecedented spike in complaints against Ottawa police officers in the first three months of 2022.

But the vast majority of protest-related complaints against the Ottawa Police Department (OPS) — which have been heavily criticized for the way the occupation was handled — was deemed unworthy of investigation by Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

“I find that concerning and I certainly expect there will be questions with the Ottawa Police Services Board to get a better understanding of why that would be,” said Somerset ward Coun. Catherine McKenney.

“I’m also amazed at the very high percentage… cases that are dismissed,” reiterated Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa.

Some concerns are considered ‘foolish’

The OIPRD — an independent civilian oversight body investigating concerns about policing in Ontario — received a total of 327 public complaints about Ottawa police officers from Jan. 1 to March 31, according to a report to be discussed at the Police Services Board Monday.

Of these, 275 were directly linked to the truck convoy protest, which began in late January and was dispersed by a team of police stations on February 19.

Of those 275 complaints, 263, or 95 percent, were not investigated.

A summary of 40 of the complaints provided by the Ottawa Police Department gives an idea of ​​the type of concerns expressed and why they were rejected by the OIPRD.

Several people complained that the police were not doing enough to put down the protest.

“The OIPRD has chosen not to consider the complaint because it has been determined that this is not in the public interest,” according to the summaries of actions taken in response to some of those complaints.

A woman protested what she saw as police inaction outside the Ottawa Police Department headquarters more than a week after the protest. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

One person complained that by Feb. 15, OPS had “repeatedly and notoriously failed to provide services to its people to protect their right to free association/assembly” – an accusation that was deemed “foolish” according to the OPS summary.

Another person whose complaint was unsuccessful alleged that former police chief Peter Sloly – who resigned before the protest broke down – sabotaged the complainant’s attempt to donate to a crowdsourcing effort in support of the demonstration.

Read more about the complaints overview below.

Other complaints were dismissed as “annoying” or made in bad faith, according to the report.

McKenney and Kempa said more information should be provided as to why complaints have not gone further.

“Of course there are some calls that are difficult to investigate. But 95 percent is almost every call that was received as a complaint,” McKenney said.

“The public is closely monitoring this matter,” Kempa said. “So it would be wise to come out for public concerns.”

Michael Kempa is the chair of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. (CBC)

In response to an interview request, OIPRD said it would respond to written questions.

The Ottawa Police Department declined to give an interview, but said Acting Chief Steve Bell would be available to the media for police forces Monday.

West Carleton March ward Coun. Eli El-Chattiry, who chairs the board, said the spike in complaints was not surprising.

“The board heard complaints about the OPS not doing enough enforcement, taking too long and being complicit; and when the agency did enforcement, complaints arose that it was being too aggressive,” he said in an emailed statement.

“This is why the review by [Ottawa’s] auditor general is so important so we can get answers to the questions many have after this protest.”

Acting Police Chief Steve Bell and Ottawa Police Services Board Chairman Eli El-Chantiry speak to media ahead of an Ottawa Police Services Board meeting in March 2022. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Multiple complaints combined in one

Six protest-related complaints about officer behavior were referred to OPS for investigation.

An officer was suspended in the first three months of 2022, but it is unclear whether that was the result of a protest-related complaint.

Five “differential treatment” complaints were merged into one complaint, while 65 “failure” complaints[ure] take action” were merged into a single complaint. Both complaints were referred for investigation.

“OPS’s response to these consolidated agency complaints will be informed by the various assessments that are underway,” the police said in its report.

Leave a Comment