FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is urging the Ottawa Police Services Board to re-think their proposed by-laws at the upcoming Board meeting. These new rules would heavily limit public engagement and lead to less transparency and accountability of the OPS and Board members themselves.
There are several important changes that are extremely concerning. Should these new by-laws pass, delegates would not be permitted to speak at regular meetings. Instead, there would be a one-hour session for public delegates held separately from the regular meeting, allowing space for only twelve delegates. This meeting would be held at noon, a time where many people struggle to attend due to it taking place during the work day.
Currently, delegates can sign up to speak until the time of the meeting, but the proposed changes shorten the registration period and require a detailed description of the speaking topic to be approved by the Chair before the meeting. Finally, these changes would prevent delegates from posing questions to the Board or its members.
There has been a lot of energy from residents over the last three years to reallocate funds so that the city could focus on community-led solutions. More broadly, residents of Ottawa recognize the failure of the Ottawa Police Service during the so-called “freedom convoy” last year. One of the lasting impacts of the occupation has been a significant erosion of trust in the police and specifically, its leadership.
“This is the opposite of building trust” Said Sam Hersh, a Board member of Horizon Ottawa. “They’re trying to avoid all scrutiny instead of listening to the many residents who were crying out for more after the immense breach of trust by the police during the convoy.”
It is also notable that at Monday’s meeting, the Board is set to decide on significant spending decisions totaling almost $200 million in a mammoth agenda which includes: the direction on the $12.5 million budget increase, $1.5 million in tasers and most controversially the proposed $178 million South end facility that was shelved by the previous Police Board because of its bloated cost. The new plan for the facility is now $60 million more than originally planned.
“It is doubly concerning that the Board is trying to pass these proposed bylaws to stifle public participation in a meeting where they are making spending decisions that should require significant engagement from residents” said Hersh. “Police shouldn’t get whatever they want whenever they want, they should be subject to the same scrutiny every single department is subjected to in this city. This double standard for the OPS has to stop.”
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