Oversight agency clears many of complaints against Ottawa police during protest against truck convoy

The truck convoy protest that has clogged Ottawa streets and tested the patience of residents for weeks has 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 Service (OPS) – which have come under heavy criticism for its handling of the occupation – have been deemed unworthy of investigation by the Office of the Director. Independent Police Review (OIPRD) of Ontario.

“I find this concerning and I certainly expect there will be questions at the Ottawa Police Services Board to better understand why,” Somerset Coun said. Catherine McKenney, whose neighborhood includes downtown where the truck convoy protest was concentrated.

“I’m also surprised at the very high percentage…of cases that are dismissed,” echoed Michael Kempa, associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa.

Some concerns deemed “frivolous”

The OIPRD – an independent civilian oversight body that examines concerns about police conduct in Ontario – received 327 public complaints about Ottawa police officers from January 1 to March 31 according to a report is to be discussed Monday at the police services board.

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

Of these 275 complaints, 263, or 95%, were not investigated.

An OPS summary of 40 of the complaints provides an idea of ​​the types of concerns raised and why they were dismissed by the OIPRD.

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

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

A woman demonstrates outside the Ottawa Police Service headquarters more than a week after the protest began against what she sees as police inaction. (Guy Quenneville/Radio-Canada)

One person complained that as of February 15, PAHO had “repeatedly and notoriously failed to provide services to its residents to protect their right to freedom of association/assembly” – a charge deemed “frivolous “, according to the PAHO summary.

Another person whose complaint was unsuccessful alleged that former police chief Peter Sloly – who resigned before the protest ended – sabotaged the complainant’s efforts to donate to a crowdsourcing effort by favor of the demonstration.

Learn more about the complaint summaries below.

“95% is almost all calls”

Other complaints were dismissed because they were “vexatious” or made in bad faith, according to the report.

McKenney and Kempa said more information needed to be provided on why they did not continue.

“Of course, there are calls, obviously, that would be difficult to investigate. But 95% is almost all calls received as a complaint,” McKenney said.

“The public is following this case very closely,” Kempa added. “So it would be wise to come out in front of public concerns.”

Michael Kempa is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa and said he was surprised by the high percentage of complaints that were dismissed. (Radio Canada)

In response to an interview request, the OIPRD indicated that it would only respond to written questions.

Ottawa police declined to grant an interview, but said Acting Chief Steve Bell would be available for media prior to Monday’s police services board meeting.

West Carleton-March County Eli El-Chantiry, who chairs the board, said the surge in complaints was not surprising.

“Council heard complaints about the OPS not doing enough enforcement, taking too long, being complicit; and when the service did enforce, there were complaints that they were being too aggressive “, he wrote in an e-mail.

“That is why the examination by [Ottawa’s] The Auditor General is so important that we can get answers to the questions many are asking as a result of this protest. »

Ottawa Acting Chief of Police Steve Bell (left) and Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Eli El-Chantiry (right) speak to the media ahead of a council meeting last month . (Guy Quenneville/Radio-Canada)

Multiple complaints rolled into one

According to the report, six protest-related complaints about an officer’s conduct were referred to the OPS for investigation.

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

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

“The OPS response to these consolidated service complaints will be informed by the various ongoing reviews,” the police department said in its report.