Controversial changes to Ottawa Police Services Board delegations to be debated next month
The Ottawa Police Services Board is one step closer to making changes to its procedure bylaws that would affect the way public delegations engage with the board.
The board received a report Monday about the changes, which would be tabled at the Feb. 27 board meeting for further discussion. The principal changes include creating a separate public consultation meeting before the official board meeting and limiting the time delegations can speak if there are more than 12 presenters.
However, residents who spoke to the board Monday said they were opposed to the proposed changes for several reasons.
One of the most controversial changes is holding the pre-meeting delegations to an hour between noon and 1 p.m. the day of a regular meeting, via electronic means such as Zoom. Only four members, including the chair, would be required to attend the meeting, though all board members would be encouraged to attend, and should more than 12 people sign up to speak, every speaker would be limited to three minutes instead of five to present to the board. The changes would also prioritize speakers who had not already addressed the board in the three months prior to the meeting.
Several members of the public expressed their concerns with the changes Monday.
“Noon to 1 p.m. is not an accessible time for people,” said Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa. “What these proposed bylaws make me think is that you believe that public engagement is simply a nuisance, something to be glossed over and rushed through so we can get through a meeting as quickly as possible. That isn’t what residents want.”
Samantha McAleese, another public speaker, also opposed the changes.
“The time and energy that has gone into these bylaw changes is wild, to be honest,” she said. “Imagine if you all put the same energy into scrutinizing the words and actions of OPS instead of the residents who show up here concerned about safety and wellbeing in our neighbourhoods. You don’t like the way we show up, you don’t like how we change our tone and our strategies after being ignored meeting after meeting.”
The proposed changes were a recommendation by the policy and governance committee of the Ottawa Police Services Board, which includes Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, Salim Fakirani and Michael Doucet.
Sutcliffe said he’s open to making changes to the proposal if necessary, but he pointed out that public delegations are not the only way people can give feedback.
“You have to listen to the voices of people who are not doing delegations at the current moment because they don’t feel it’s an environment for them,” he said. “There are many different ways that we hear from the public. All of us engage with the community on a regular basis and it is not only through public delegations that we hear the lived experiences of members of our community. It’s one of the ways, it’s an important way, and we want to continue it, but it’s not the only way.”
Coun. Marty Carr said she was uncomfortable with some of the changes.
“I’m just wondering if there’s an opportunity to have some more thought and look at what other options there are other than what’s currently on the paper because it’s quite restrictive, in terms of the times, it seems to be the bylaw, as drafted, is overly prescriptive in terms of timeframes and what we’re asking,” she said.
The board will vote on the proposed changes Feb. 27.
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