Police Services Board pushes pause on search for third deputy chief

The board said it was “looking to develop a well-thought out, community-minded recruitment process” and plans a further announcement by March 28.

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The Ottawa Police Services Board has put its search for a third deputy chief of police on hold until it completes the recruitment process for a new permanent police chief.

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In a statement, the board said it was “looking to develop a well-thought out, community-minded recruitment process” and plans to make a further announcement by the March 28 regular meeting.

The news is the latest instalment in the saga of rapid change at senior levels of the police service and the police services board.

Earlier this month, the Ottawa Police Service had a chief, Peter Sloly, and three deputy chiefs, Steve Bell and Uday Jaswal and Trish Ferguson, who is serving in an acting capacity.

Jaswal had been suspended with pay since March 2020, when he was charged with misconduct for the alleged sexual harassment of three female OPS members.

On Thursday it was made public that Jaswal has resigned only days before an Ontario Civilian Police Commission hearing on the matter. 

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Bell, an OPS veteran, stepped into the role of interim police chief after Sloly announced that he was resigning as chief on Feb. 15 in the face of criticism over his handling of the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations that caused havoc in the downtown core.

But the need to replenish the leadership predated that. Early in January, before the convoy arrived in Ottawa, Diane Deans, then chair of the police board, acknowledged that there were gaps in the senior leadership. The hiring of the additional deputy chief of police would provide “increased support and stability” to Sloly, she said.

“There has been, and continues to be, a lot of changes taking place at the Ottawa Police Service. The chief requires a strong and stable senior leadership team to assist him in shepherding those changes,” she said.

Deans was herself ousted from the police services board on Feb. 16 after city council voted to remove her and replace her with former chair Eli El-Chantiry.

At issue was the hiring of former Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Matt Torigian as interim chief a day after Sloly’s resignation. Torigian, who had already signed a contract, agreed to withdraw his candidacy.

Deans later said hiring had to be done quickly to bolster the depleted ranks of the police command during an unprecedented crisis.

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