The police chief says events since the convoy demonstrate a change in approach
The Ottawa Police Chief says the force has increased communications with its board of supervisors and City Hall ahead of major events to avoid the lack of coordination seen at last year’s convoy protest.
“There’s just layer upon layer of positive communication happening,” Chief Eric Stubbs told the media after a meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board on Thursday.
The board met the day after the release of the city’s auditor-general, Nathalie Gougeon three separate reports how the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Police Service and the Board responded to the convoy crisis.
Gougeon, noting that the groups did not always work smoothly together, said there were “very big questions” about how the convoy protest unfolded into a nearly month-long event.
She noted that the Ottawa Police Department did not share enough information with the city prior to the convoy’s arrival, hampering the city’s ability to plan operations such as transit service.
Although police had OPP information as early as Jan. 13 that the protests would be massive and disruptive, they noted that then-Police Chief Peter Sloly did not notify the chief executive — former councilwoman Diane Deans — until Jan. 24. , just four days before the protesters were due to arrive.
Stubbs, who took over as police chief last fall, declined to comment on Sloly. He acknowledged that the service’s communication was “lacking” at times and that sharing operational plans was “simply not in our DNA.”
When it comes to future major events — including possible anniversary demonstrations later this month — police have changed their approach to communications, Stubbs said.
He added the Ottawa Police Department met privately with members of the board early Thursday to discuss their operational plans for the next few weeks and met regularly with the city’s Office of Emergency Management.
A “critical” new body called the Integrated Event Command Table brings “all of our security and city partners together in the same space with the same information,” he added.
“I think what we did over the weekend of January 28-29 shows the amount of change that has happened… We are listening to the lessons learned,” he said, adding that improved communication must be matched with action.
During last April’s Rolling Thunder event, tactical teams quickly moved in and quickly deployed tow trucks to remove banned vehicles.
Police liaison officers monitored protesters on Parliament Hill during the recent one-year anniversary of the convoy’s arrival, while a tow truck aimed at the hill remained parked outside the Château Laurier hotel.
“I am encouraged and reassured by all of the work that the Ottawa Police Service has done over the past few months and weeks,” Stubbs said.
While Stubbs said the service improved its communications “quite quickly” during the convoy protest, Gourgeon disagreed somewhat in her own comments, stating the improvements came “specifically to the rear end.”
Sloly resigned as police chief on February 15, a day after the federal government took emergency action to quell the protest and three days before police moved in to begin dispersing the protesters.
The lawyers who represented Sloly during the commission’s public hearings told CBC they are not currently commenting on the audits.
The audits also found errors at the city and the police department.
Coordination between all city authorities did not come early enough during the protest, while noting that the board was not transparent in delegating Deans instead of two board members to hire a temporary new police chief following Sloly’s resignation.
In an emailed statement, Deans said the board’s four-member human resources committee worked with her through the hiring process and, after reviewing the candidates’ qualifications, directed her to submit a job offer.
“The legal counsel has helped, as has our adviser from the Attorney General’s Office. There were no concerns from those board advisors,” she said.
“The board was unaware of the upcoming plan to end the occupation,” Deans said of the hire.
“Neither the police, the mayor or the city manager, all of whom had this information, provided this important information to the board in our oversight role.”