Overhaul of Ontario police law set to take effect April 1st

Cute dog wearing police costume

The Ontario Police Services Act (PSA), which has been in place for 34 years, is being replaced by a new set of rules and regulations that will cover everything from oversight and discipline to the possibility of officers being suspended without pay. The new act is expected to come into effect on April 1, five years after its passage, following a long process that included over 30 meetings with communities, lawyers and police services, as well as the filing of over two dozen regulations. While the new act has a total of 263 sections, more than 100 of which are longer than the one it replaces, the most eye-catching of the new rules is that police chiefs will be able to suspend an officer without pay in certain circumstances. Under the old PSA, the only circumstances in which an officer would not be paid while suspended was if they both were convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail.

For example, an officer who has been found guilty of a crime but not yet served his sentence would remain without pay unless and until he is terminated through police disciplinary proceedings. If the officer appeals his termination, he or she could remain without pay for months or even years.

The OPP has long been in favour of giving more authority to the Chief Constable to suspend an officer without pay. The new law goes further than previous legislation – chiefs can suspend officers without pay if they are in custody or on remand with conditions that affect their ability to perform their duties, or if they are charged with a serious offence off-duty that could result in their termination. Police unions say they are concerned about the broadening of the provisions on suspension without pay, arguing that an officer is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless he has been convicted.

The law and its related regulations establish minimum standards for “adequate and effective” policing in areas like crime prevention and maintaining public peace. Another important provision of the law, is one that sets out the equipment that front-line officers must have access to in the event of an active attacker situation. This includes heavier body armour and a battering ram, as well as a “reasonable number” of semiautomatic rifles, which can vary from community to community. Also there is a growing public demand for greater transparency and accountability regarding the management of police powers and systemic discrimination in policing. Further measures are needed to ensure police review and purge any records that reflect or facilitate excessive, discriminatory or unlawful police practices. For a full list of changes go to https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/230398

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