Ottawa police chief has 'lost the room:' union president
OTTAWA -- The head of Ottawa’s police union is accusing the city’s police chief of failed leadership for his response to a traffic stop in which an officer was accused of racial profiling.
In a letter on the Ottawa Police Association’s website, Matt Skof wrote that Chief Peter Sloly “lost the room” and “inflamed the workplace” when he published an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen in response to the incident, saying that Ottawa police are committed to resolving bias and systemic racism.
“Chief Sloly has made it clear that he will overlook facts, remain silent about the value of employees’ work, and surrender their reputations with ease,” Skof wrote. “The Chief has failed the leadership test. A sense of hope with a change of command has withered.”
In the traffic stop on July 27, an Ottawa police officer pulled over a man driving a rental car for what the officer said was an expired licence plate sticker. However, the sticker was not expired.
The man filmed the traffic stop; in the video, the officer acknowledges his mistake and apologizes.
The man says he believes the officer pulled him over because he is Black, and has demanded an apology from the police service.
In Sloly’s op-ed, published last week, said police and community members he spoke with about the video general fall into two groups.
“The first group feels that the officer was doing his job in a respectful and professional manner and immediately acknowledged his mistake. The second group feels that the driver did nothing to warrant the officer’s intervention and they feel that this was yet another example of racial profiling,” he wrote.
“I have unequivocally and repeatedly stated that conscious and unconscious bias is a challenge for all police members and that systemic racism exists in policing. Canadian Police Association President Tom Stamatakis has said that all levels of policing have to address systemic racism. He has further stated that we need to listen to communities who say they are concerned about their interactions with police."
In an interview with Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Leslie Roberts on Thursday, Skof said he wrote the piece because his members do not feel supported by the chief.
“It’s as a result of a comment or an inference of our chief saying that this was in some way related to systemic racism,” he said. “That is a very problematic statement for our membership.
“We have examples of members performing their duties where members of the public are expressing to them that they are disgraceful vile people, and even their own chief says so. And that is how the message was received.”
Skof says he believes there is no systemic racism in the Ottawa Police Service, and suggested Sloly is using his position to advance a social cause.
He says Sloly ignored “inconvenient truths,” including the 2016 study of Ottawa police traffic stops that showed in more than 88 per cent of the stops, officers could not identify the driver’s race.
That study did not confirm the presence of police bias, but it found that Black and Middle Eastern young men were more likely to be stopped by police than expected based on their proportions of the population.
You can listen to Leslie Roberts’s full interview with Matt Skof here.