The Ottawa Police Services Board has gone outside of the service to hire a new police chief.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs was introduced as the new chief of the Ottawa Police Service Friday afternoon, three days before voters head to the polls to elect a new mayor and council.
Mayoral candidates Bob Chiarelli and Catherine McKenney had called on the board to delay the hiring of the new chief until the new council and board is sworn in, but Stubbs says he is prepared to work to overcome “any negativity or angst” a new mayor and council may have with the hiring process.
“I don’t and didn’t control when the hiring process occurred. It was open; I applied and went through a rigorous process, a number of interviews to get to this point,” Stubbs said during his introductory media conference.
“If the new mayor and council express concerns when it was announced, that’s okay. But I certainly look to overcome that by meeting with them and, again, building relationships with them and know that I’m here for all the right reasons to work with the great team at OPS, work with City Hall and the community to make this community safe.”
In a statement shortly after Stubbs was introduced as chief, McKenney said they are “ready to work” with the new chief, and congratulated them on the appointment.
“The concern with this process has never been about who is being hired. It is about the process unfolding days before an election and in the middle of a national inquiry. The wave of criticism from the general public has further illustrated how this process was inappropriate,” McKenney said.
“Months after the convoy occupation shut down our city, with weeks of inaction of our police service, rebuilding public trust within the Ottawa Police Service is of the utmost importance.”
Stubbs has been in charge of Core Criminal Operations for the B.C. RCMP since July 2017.
Last November, the Mounties in B.C. enforced an injunction barring protesters from blocking an access road in the Wet’suwet’en territory used by Coastal GasLink pipeline workers. Two journalists were arrested covering the ongoing B.C. pipeline dispute. At the time, Stubbs said they did not identify themselves as journalists until after they were arrested.
“All the protests that have occurred in the last five years, COVID, but there’s been a lot of resource base ones, the Coastal Gaslink with the Wet’suwet’en, Old Growth Forest, the Trans Mountain pipeline, it’s been very challenging,” Stubbs said on Friday. “There’s a team here that’s done it a lot and have really dedicated to trying to resolve these things through talking and negotiating and we’ve been successful in a lot of those cases. But often we do end up having to arrest people and some people are upset.”
“I’ve worked extensively with First Nations/Indigenous populations. I worked in 11 separate First Nations communities when I was younger, and as I got into the more senior ranks I continued to work on a number of committees and a number of initiatives with First Nations people,” he added. “I enjoy working with the Indigenous communities, I’ve done it a lot and I’ll continue to do so in Ottawa.”
Board chair Eli El-Chantiry said the board’s hiring decision was unanimous.
Stubbs is an assistant commissioner with the RCMP in British Columbia. He was introduced on Zoom because he contracted COVID-19 and was unable to travel to Ottawa for the announcement. He will be sworn-in as chief on Nov. 17.
“It will be my priority to, obviously, meet with the senior command team, both associations, all the employees and just start to build a positive relationship with all of them,” Stubbs said. “I know that if we trust together, we work together great things can be accomplished in the community.
“I don’t take this role lightly and the road ahead will be challenging, and I, along with the great team at OPS we will strive to meet those expectations every day.”
El-Chantiry says after a lengthy hiring process, the board decided to hire the next chief from outside the service.
“We had multiple people who applied for the job, and the successful candidate was selected unanimously by the board,” El-Chantiry said when asked the board went outside Ottawa to hire the chief.
Deputy Chief Steve Bell has been serving as interim chief since mid-February, after the resignation of Peter Sloly as chief during the “Freedom Convoy.”
Stubbs appointment comes as the actions of the Ottawa Police Service during the occupation in downtown Ottawa comes under the microscope through Public Order Emergency Commission looking at the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act. The city of Ottawa’s Auditor General is also looking into the police and city response to the convoy.
Stubbs says he will work to repair the community’s trust in the Ottawa Police Service.
“Obviously, some trust was lost and regaining that trust obviously starts internally, looking at what occurred and didn’t occurred, and making processes, and training, etc., better so we’re more prepared for the future,” Stubbs said. “And obviously communicating with the public about what we’re doing and what our approach will be going forward.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki issued a statement congratulating Stubbs on his appointment.
“Eric, your years of dedicated service and leadership have contributed greatly to the RCMP. Wishing you the very best in your new role!” Lucki said on Twitter.
Hours before Stubbs was introduced as the new chief, McKenney called the timing of the decision “shameful.” McKenney wanted the board to present their preferred candidate for chief, with the new board to confirm and appoint them “in order to maintain public trust in our police service.”
Ottawa Police Services Board member Jeff Leiper says he did not attend the announcement of the chief due to election blackout rules.
Leiper says he expressed his preference publicly and privately to delay the hiring of the new chief until after the election.
“Since the process began, I have participated in the hiring process irrespective of my disagreement on the timing. My focus through the process has been to hire a Chief who I believe will best serve the public interest,” Leiper said in a statement on Friday.
“The Police Services Board is composed of seven individuals, some appointed by Council, some by the Province. Through the hiring process, our discussions were robust, open and energetic. The confidentiality of the process was respected and the decision of the Board is the Board’s alone.
“I look forward to working with soon-to-be Chief Stubbs on improving policing in this city. He has my support. We have much work ahead.”
In July, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a motion to proceed with the recruitment stage for the new chief during the municipal election campaign, after the board conducted public consultations. In August, the Ottawa Police Service issued a job posting inviting candidates to apply for the chief’s position, with interviews set for late September and early October.
In the media advisory for Friday’s introduction of the new chief, the Ottawa Police Services Board acknowledged that some candidates have called on the board to put the recruitment process for a new chief on hold in order to allow the incoming Council to oversee the hiring process.
“The Board takes this opportunity to remind the candidates, and clarify for the public, that the Police Services Board is a distinct and separate body from City Council, created by s. 27(1) of the Police Services Act. The Board includes a majority of members who are not drawn from City Council,” the statement said.
The statement added that pausing the recruitment until the next term of council would meanthe service would be without a permanent Chief of Police until next spring or perhaps later.
“The Ottawa Police Service has been without a permanent Chief of Police since February of this year. Further, the entire Executive Command, with the exception of the Chief Administrative Officer, are in acting positions,” the statement said. “This has impacted the stability of the Police Service after an already challenging year.”
In a letter to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission on Wednesday, El-Chantiry noted that under the Police Services Act, the board has the “statutory obligation to recruit and appoint” the chief.
“The Service has been without a permanent Chief of Police since February of this year. The next term of Council will not begin until November 15, and the appointments to Committees and Boards likely won’t be finalized until the end of the year or early 2023. The next iteration of the Board might not be in a position to appoint a new Chief of Police until next spring or later,” El-Chantiry wrote.
“The Board made its decision because it was (and is) of the view that it is unacceptable for the Police Service and it is unacceptable for the community, to not have a confirmed permanent Chief for over a year.”
“It is actually in the best interests of the next Board to have this critical position filled before they begin their mandate as this will enable them to focus their attention on the budget, an updated strategic plan, and the recruitment of a permanent Deputy Chief of Police since we have had a vacancy in that role also since February of this year.”
Source: CTV News