By Aaron Northrup, North Bay.
Editor's note. Mr. Northrup is responding to this opinion piece, Get on a board, run for office.
As the President of the North Bay Police Association, I would like to take the opportunity to comment on the OP-Ed written by Mr. Don Curry. Mr. Curry makes some valid points, but I believe I need to speak and attempt to clarify some of these.
Before I do that I must be clear, I and the entire membership of the North Bay Police Association condemn the actions of Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. This is not how people should be treated, and we hope the courts see it as such and Derek Chauvin be held accountable for his actions.
Defunding the police is a huge catchphrase right now, but what does it mean?
In Ontario and North Bay, we have possibly the most progressive police partnerships in the world. Defunding the police groups are asking for mental health nurses to attend calls, they are asking for community groups to come together to come up with solutions. They are asking for social workers to attend domestic violence calls and asking for armed police to be removed from schools.
We have two mental health nurses working with two plainclothes officers attending to our endless mental health calls. This mobile crisis unit helps the client receive the assistance they need and not turn into a criminal case involving police. Our HUB officer meets continually with the many Nipissing area service providers helping develop solutions for at-risk clients trying to keep them from entering the criminal justice system. Our school liaison officer is armed, he bounces from all the schools in our district responding to calls for service. Even if he is required to make an arrest, all youth cases are reviewed by a citizen appointed committee to determine if the matter should go to court, or can other measures take place. Ask your school principal on the positives of having this officer.
Domestic violence calls are serious and require immediate police response. The Criminal Code written by Government (not police) compels police to lay a charge, no discretion at all. But once the charge is laid then a variety of highly trained and motivated victim service workers take over.
But before we can just change a uniform we must guarantee a few things. Is it allowable under the Police Services Act, as we must remain readily identifiable as a police officer? On December 1 1973 North Bay Police Constable Len Slater was murdered. Part of the defence was that Cst Slater had removed his hat and therefore the killer couldn't identify him as a police officer. The argument was partially successful in court. Prior to COVID 19, Chief Tod and I have been in discussions about changing to ball caps and dry fit golf uniform shirts.
Mr. Curry spoke of police unions. In Canada we are associations. We have no powers to strike. The Association's DO NOT impede the Chief to suspend, it is strictly defined in the Police Services Act of Ontario, the legislation created and amended by Government, not by police associations.
The Police Association has no say if an officer is suspended. We can argue a matter if there is a breach of the contract. The new Police Services Act will allow chiefs to suspend officers without pay for serious offences. Currently, police officers have four levels of oversight; Internal Investigations, Ontario Police Arbitration Commission The Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and Special Investigations Unit,.
The latter three are completely independent from the police.
I am fully supportive of body cameras, our officers look forward to being able to enter those interactions into court.
I agree with Mr. Curry on may points, I agree with getting rid of the bad apples. In my 20-year career I have arrested and convicted police officers and if we have bad officers here ( and I don't believe we do ) then let's get rid of them.
On our two local marches I thought they were done with respect and for the most part, the messaging was positive, I have two children in university and although we don't always agree on matters, we talk and we listen to each other.
Mr. Curry and I might differ a bit, but I think we are pretty close in most of our thoughts,
Go out and learn something new, contact the Multi-Cultural Centre, the Indigenous Friendship Centre, the Centre of Friends.
Hey, talk to a COP, if they are parked say hi, start a conversation. The bike patrol is out, talk to them. Our people love to meet new folks, we are not robots, we are just doing a job that changes by the minute.
President North Bay Police Association