A retired Ottawa police inspector says the Ottawa Police Service and former Police Chief Peter Sloly made glaring errors and devastating miscalculations in preparing the capital for the demonstration that has now occupied the downtown core for more than two weeks.
Patrick Flanagan says the “job of police is to plan for extreme scenarios” and Sloly didn’t do it.
“It was evident early on, with the desecration of both the Terry Fox monument and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, that passive policing was an ill-thought out strategy,” Flanagan wrote in response to a series of questions from CTV News Ottawa.
Flanagan spent 37 years on the force and was Sloly's executive officer before he retired last May. He says the police service should have been ready before the first trucks rolled into the city.
“Enforcement should have commenced day one. The plan should have also included tow trucks on standby, parked in the downtown core, the day prior to the siege. It would have sent a strong message,” Flanagan wrote.
Flanagan also says that Sloly changed major incident commanders several times during the crisis, suggesting the former Chief was out of his depth in facing the occupation.
“Having to replace the major incident commander four times suggests a lack of trust and confidence the chief had in his subject matter experts. I would have hoped that he had the operational command experience to back up his constant knee-jerk reactions,” Flanagan wrote.
Flanagan also says Ottawa police have been too slow and too late with implementing a strategy that is still not clear on day 19 of the protest.
“To suggest, after two-plus weeks, that the police finally put together an integrated communication strategy is farcical,” Flanagan wrote.
Flanagan also says the lack of communication with the public during the crisis was a terrible mistake.
“Although the Ottawa Police hired an expensive public relations firm to help them communicate their response, they failed miserably. At times 14 to 15 hours would go by without an update,” Flanagan wrote.
As for front line officers who have been under pressure from the public to do something about the protest downtown, Flanagan believes they have been forced to follow orders many of them don’t agree with.
“Make no mistake, those officers assigned to the occupation were kept on a short leash and ordered not to engage,” he wrote. “In the end, the little trust and confidence the public instilled in the police prior to this occupation quickly evaporated because of lack of proper planning, underestimating the conviction of the protesters, and ultimately the lack of action by police on the front line.”