For Police Chiefs everywhere a meeting of the Police Services Board is probably like a trip to the dentist, but nowhere moreso for Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly than yesterday, as he was summoned to an emergency session of his board. There was tension in the air as the chief started out by suggesting that because the meeting was hastily called, he might not be fully prepared to provide answers to the board. Board Chair Diane Deans started off by acknowledging that police services boards are not allowed to engage in operational matters, so she framed her question in the language of the act creating Police Services Boards thusly, “in you opinion as the Chief of Police of Ottawa, do you feel you are still able to provide, given the fluid situation of this occupation adequate and effective policing to the residents of our city?
Sloly took the board through a list of the challenges he is facing. He told the Board the occupation that Ottawa is experiencing is unprecedented in Canada and maybe North America. He admitted he his not have sufficient officers to handle the situation but told members that he is getting reinforcements from other Ontario forces and from the Mounties. Several members wanted to know why the demonstrators were allowed to take over a downtown park that is operated by the National Capital Commission, essentially turning into a re-fueling depot, and constructing a plywood kitchen on the site. Members were no pleased when one of the chief’s team told the board that Police have to negotiate with the National Capital Commission to access the site.
Among the needed supports cited by Chief Sloly was access to legal advice to determine what enforcement steps can be legally taken by police. That was enough for board member Carol Ann Meehan who is an Ottawa City Councilor as well.
Chair Deans was blunt in her assessment of the situation.
“This group is emboldened by the lack of enforcement by every level of government,” said Deans, “They are terrorizing our residents, torturing them with incessant honking, threatening them and preventing them from leading their lives. People cannot go to work or open their businesses. They cannot sleep, walk, shop, go to medical appointments or enjoy their neighbourhood,” she said. “This group is a threat to our democracy. What we’re seeing is bigger than just a city of Ottawa problem. This is a nationwide insurrection. This is madness.”
As of Sunday morning nothing had changed. If anything the situation became more tense with Mayor Jim Watson telling reporters, “the situation at this point is completely out of control because the individuals with the protest are calling the shots. “They have far more people than we have police officers and I’ve indicated to the chief that we have to be much more nimble and proactive when it comes to these activities.”