As protests against COVID-19 measures in Ottawa spark a wave of protests across the province, Ontario police forces face a demanding balancing act of trying to manage protests, control crowds and ensure the safety of participants and residents.
But, as the occupation of Ottawa enters its third week, police are under intense scrutiny to determine how the protesters were able to take control of downtown and how they kept the protest going for so long. long time.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, as well as Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Toronto Mayor John Tory, have made it clear that they support the police and their approach to peacekeeping, while repeatedly asserting that they cannot lead the police force as elected officials.
While politicians can implement laws that police forces are responsible for enforcing, such as the injunctions Ottawa and Windsor saw put in place this week or the invocation of the Emergencies Act on Monday , elected officials cannot command police forces on a day-to-day basis.
Dr. Wayne Petrozzi, professor emeritus in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University, says the separation between police and politicians is a sign of a healthy democracy.
“In most democracies we keep a very strict line that separates elected officials from the police force or security services,” Petrozzi told CTV News Toronto on Monday.
“It’s about making sure that the police do the job of policing on the basis of the task, not on the basis of political direction.”
So if politicians aren’t involved in policing, who runs Ontario’s police force?
MINISTRY OF THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
Ontario’s Police Services Act outlines the Solicitor General’s responsibility to oversee police forces, establish systems of inspection and review, consult and advise boards, and manage the Ontario Police College, among other responsibilities.
POLICE SERVICES BOARDS
A police services board, of which each police force has its own, oversees the delivery of policing services in local communities.
Local police services boards are made up of an equal number of members appointed by both the regional or municipal council and the province, as well as one appointed community member.
There are two types of boards: Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Police Services Boards and Municipal Police Boards.
OPP Service Commissions determine the objectives and priorities of their areas of command, establish local policies, advise OPP detachments, participate in selection, consult and receive reports from the detachment commander of the OPP. PPO.
Municipal police services boards are responsible for determining police service objectives and priorities.
Although the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Police Services Board oversee the police services, they do not command the police forces.
CHIEF OF POLICE
Chiefs of police in Ontario are largely responsible for the command and direction of their forces, with advice and consultation from police services boards.
According to the Police Services Act, the responsibilities of chiefs of police include administering the police force, ensuring that members of the police force carry out their duties, ensuring that police forces provide community-based policing and administering a complaints system.
Chiefs of police have the greatest say in day-to-day policing.
TRUST IN THE OTTAWA POLICE
After nearly three weeks of criticism over how the Ottawa protests were handled, Police Chief Peter Sloly announced his resignation on Tuesday. The announcement comes on day 19 of the protests.
Residents expressed growing outrage at the police response, with participants freely transporting fuel and other supplies to and from their encampments, showing no sign of leaving Wellington Street.
Petrozzi says the police situation in Ottawa “defies all standards of what to expect when it comes to security” and calls the force’s actions “inexplicable.”
He drew a comparison between ongoing occupations and past protests that have seen police move more quickly.
“I remind you that not so long ago indigenous peoples were blocking the railway lines and I also remind you how long it took the provincial and federal authorities to react,” he said.
According to Petrozzi, any potential problems within the Ottawa Police Service would not be caused by Ontario’s current policing system, but rather by the force’s chain of command. He says the events in Ottawa will likely be reviewed by the Ottawa Police Services Board.
“When this is done, the City of Ottawa Police Services Board may decide to conduct a review of what happened and, based on what emerges from that review, bring what it deems be appropriate changes to the Ottawa Police command structure,” he said.
With files from CTV News’ Josh Pringle.