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New Ottawa police board chair confirms support for interim chief Bell

Coun. Eli El-Chantiry is the new chair of the Ottawa police services board, one day after Coun. Diane Deans was ousted from the job in a dramatic council meeting Wednesday night.

El-Chantiry's first act as chair of the police oversight board was to confirm Interim Chief Steve Bell will remain in his current position as police deal with the ongoing occupation of downtown streets.

"There's no labour issue we're going to be talking about," El-Chantiry said. "You are the interim chief and that's going to be until another time when we have this discussion. For the time being we need you to focus on the operation, we need the membership to know there's the stability here.

"Right now, we have an interim chair and he has all of our support."

The Ottawa police services board unanimously approve El-Chantiry as the new chair of the board. Members decided to hold off on voting for a new vice-chair of the board until council appoints a new councillor.

Wednesday's political drama unfolded in an emotional meeting unlike any other during Mayor Jim Watson’s tenure as mayor, amid the backdrop of the ongoing trucker protest downtown.

Deans was voted off the police services board after sources said she and the board moved to hire a new interim police chief in a sole-sourced deal, without consulting councillors or the mayor.

Deans, in a lengthy defence Wednesday night, said council did not have a formal role in the decision and dismissed the decision as “ridiculously political.”

“You’re sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong,” she told her colleagues. “I know all of you are very wise, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Deans and the board made the decision to hire Matt Torigian, a former Waterloo police chief. Deans said given Chief Peter Sloly’s departure as chief earlier in the week, police leadership needed to be quickly bolstered by bringing in outside help.

"He would have brought a lot of capability that we could use right now," Deans told CTV News at Noon, adding that Torigian was due to start in the next few days.

"We only have two senior command team members right now at Ottawa police," she added. "That's not a command team, and we're in the middle of the biggest crisis in the city's history. They needed the help."

Watson told CTV News at Noon that councillors were frustrated and lacked confidence that the board was getting the job done.

"I think really the straw that broke the camel's back for the vast majority of members who voted to oust Councillor Deans was the fact that just one day after appointing Interim Chief Steve Bell, she had a signed contract with another interim chief from Toronto who knew nothing about Ottawa, was going to bring a bunch of consultants with him, sole-source contract, no public consultation, and no one has any idea what the price is for these people."

Watson’s other opponents on council proclaimed themselves “disgusted” with the move to oust board members, with Coun. Carol Anne Meehan at one point calling for his resignation.

Council voted 15-9 to replace Deans on the board with Coun. El-Chantiry, the former chair of the board. 

Meehan survived a vote on her future on the police services board, but resigned from the board at the end of the meeting. Her replacement has not been named.

Coun. Rawlson King and board member Sandy Smallwood also resigned their positions in protest. Coun. Jeff Leiper replaced King on the board. Top Stories

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