In his own words: Chief Peter Sloly addresses the Ottawa Police Services Board for the first time
Here is an unedited version of the remarks Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly gave at his first Ottawa Police Services Board Meeting on Monday October 28. He was sworn in as Chief earlier in the day .
Good afternoon Chair Smallwood and Board members. I’m honoured to be here to present you with my first verbal report.
As you know, I was sworn in as the new Ottawa Police Chief bright and early this morning. This ceremony occurred on the morning parade at 474 Elgin so that my first official act as Chief was to be with, and to pay tribute to, our frontline officers along with our civilian members as they started their day in service to the City of Ottawa.
I am grateful for all of the support I have received so far from the members of the Board, the members of the Ottawa Police Service and the residents of the City of Ottawa itself. I want to specially recognize the ongoing support from Diane Deans who I continue to hold in thought and prayer for a full recovery and a speedy return to her full-time duties as councillor and Board Chair.
Members from all around the Service and people from across the City have welcomed me, provided me with invaluable insights into the current state of affairs, and committed themselves to work with me to help build a better police service and a safer city.
My interactions included meetings with both the Ottawa Police Association and the Senior Officers Association. I have had productive conversations with SOA President Joan McKenna and OPA President Matt Skof. There is a spirit of optimism amongst all parties that we can work together to build a stronger organization that better supports the OPS members and the community-at-large.
I know I will also need to visit all the communities and neighbourhoods that we serve - from Orleans to Kanata, Manotick to Munster.
I looked at the map that shows the geography that the OPS covers and it’s as much as Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary AND Vancouver, combined.
That’s a lot of territory with many diverse communities which require some customized approaches to police service delivery. What works in our urban centres, may not work well in the suburbs, or out in rural areas.
Regardless of where you work in the OPS or where you live in Ottawa I am looking forward to working with you, serving with you and getting to know you over the next five years....and beyond.
I am committed to faithfully implementing the Board’s strategic plan that was developed in consultation with members of the public and members of the police service:
1. Advancing community policing;
2. Making meaningful progress on equity, diversity and inclusion;
3. Supporting members;
4. Modernizing the work environment.
My approach to accomplishing the OPS strategy will be to focus on the following three areas:
• People & Partnerships: We will do everything to enable and advance the reality that 100% of the OPS policing mission gets done by our members and the problem-solving partnerships they form with the community;
• Prevention & Precision: We will be a more proactive and intelligence driven organization that seeks to first prevent public safety problems from occurring and, when needed, is capable of more precise effective investigative and prosecutory interventions; and
• Performance & Progress: We will raise our individual and collective levels of performance and will demonstrate real progress in accomplishing our strategic goals.
Please know that my first three to six months as Chief will require me to have a relentless focus on “People & Partnerships.”
My focus on people and partnerships is in part based on the unique circumstances of Ottawa’s geographical size which has resulted in the majority of OPS members living within the city limits. This is in contrast to Toronto where between 80-90% of TPS members live outside of the city. This creates a unique dynamic where our members have a lot of “skin in the game,” which can translate into a greater personal and professional commitment to serve and safeguard the city where they live, work and play.
Over the course of my tenure as Chief, I will maintain this focus of supporting and empowering the folks who are doing the heavy lifting for the OPS; the frontline officers, their supervisors along with frontline civilians and their managers.
It will be critically important to help the OPS membership to feel more engaged, valued and empowered in order for them to deliver the highest quality police service to the community.
I am committed to doing more to keep our members safe and healthy, with a stronger focus on member wellness, including ensuring the right supports are in place so that nobody feels isolated or alone.
We need to work at getting better, together, to erase the stigma in policing that asking for help is a sign of weakness. As police members, we are always here to help the community, but we must be willing to do more for each other, too.
It is important for me to take the time to get to know the OPS members and it’s also important that the members have the opportunity to get to know me, too.
I also plan on getting out into the different communities that make up this great city. I am also excited to meet with our community partners who sacrifice so much to work in partnership with us while both defending and supporting us when we are unfairly attacked and holding us to account when we have not met their reasonable expectations. I want to hear what the community has to say, to listen to their ideas, and work with them to build a safer more livable city.
As I invest more in our people, I will be absolutely committed to investing more in our partnerships with the community.
My best public safety and public service experiences and outcomes were the result of neighbourhood policing. Neighbourhood policing will be the cornerstone of the OPS’s core policing strategy.
It will allow our members the best opportunity to give and earn respect within our most marginalized and victimized communities.
It will result in more collaborative and effective partnerships.
It will provide the most valuable and timely sources of information.
It will result in better investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for individuals who prey on vulnerable persons.
Neighbourhood policing creates a symbiotic relationship, where the OPS and community actually co-produce public safety.
I have also been very busy getting my family settled into Ottawa. Moving to a new city, getting my kids registered in school, purchasing a new home and, most importantly, buying some really warm winter coats, are just a few of the things we have been doing together as a family. We are excited to go out and explore all that the nation’s capital has to offer.
I see the OPS as my new work family. It is a family where we give each other unyielding support but we also have to sometimes apply tough love and corrective discipline.
We celebrate individual successes but we put aside petty disagreements to pull together and work through stressful times, deal with illness, overcome tragic loss of life, manage through financial difficulties and resolve complex internal family disputes.
It should be a place where we are not be afraid of having difficult discussions, or asking hard questions, or engaging in courageous conversations, because they lead to the most effective solutions.
A family, where we will be honest and respectful in our dealings with each other; where we will make tough decisions and go through big changes together.
Some decisions will be unpopular with some and there will be changes that will be difficult for all. But we will do it for the good of the family and for the city we live and work in.
The City, and citizens of Ottawa need our help; they want us in their neighbourhoods and they want to work with us, but they first want us to fix our own house before we come and try to fix theirs.
For outsiders like me it is clear that we need some organizational healing and reconciling. We need to become more of a family than a loose collection of factions and fractious individuals. We need to be more willing to work out our differences, than simply airing them publicly through leaks. This process of reconciliation and relationship-building needs to occur at every level of the organization, but first and foremost it must happen at the very top of the organization - from me and my executive team on down and throughout the entire organization.
We need to create the conditions for a critical mass of progressive and inclusive leaders at the OPS to enable more transparent, consistent and equitable decision-making. We need to develop and promote a more collaborative and innovative culture that results in more effective strategy implementation, rigorous program evaluation, and continuous organizational improvement.
No person, family, organization or community is perfect; we all have strengths and weaknesses. The OPS is no different. But I am convinced that this police service has the people, the partnerships, and the potential to be the best in the country. I am increasingly impressed with the dedication, compassion and professionalism of the OPS membership.
I truly believe that the police are the most visible element of a functioning democracy, so the police service of jurisdiction in Canada’s capital city can and should be the leader in modern, inclusive and effective policing in the country.
There is much work to be done to bring this vision and mission to fruition.
I know we can do this but only if we work together as a team; between the Board and the Service, between management and the frontline, and between our members and our community partners.
This has been a very exciting day for me. It was my first day as a resident of Ottawa and my first day as the Chief of the Ottawa Police Service.
I know there will be many more exciting days to come. I also know there will be some difficult days as well. But I am grateful for all who have helped to me take this first step on this first day and to all who will be with me for the rest of the journey. Thank you.
I am happy to take any questions that the Board may have for me at this time.