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Police Service Board approach “out of date,” says Toronto lawyer

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

The Police Service Board — a civilian body that oversees the Waterloo Regional Police Service — should be more involved in the operational side of the police department, unlike the traditional hands-off approach, according to Ryan Teschner, a Toronto lawyer.

Teschner was the legal reviewer of the Morden report, which examined policing matters, including the role of police service boards, in the wake of the G20 summit in 2010.

Previously, the interpretation of the Police Services Act was that the role of police boards is to set broad policy and they should not be involved in operational issues. However, Teschner said that understanding is out of date.

“Quite simply, viewing matters of policy and operations as these water-tight compartments that shall never overlap is not only outdated, but this view compromises the very principles of civilian oversight that are already woven into the legal fabric of Ontario’s policing system,” he told the police board.

In order to ensure the policies they set are being followed, boards should be asking for operational information and could also make suggestions and express an opinion on specific operational decisions, according to Teschner. The final say, however, is up to the police chief.

Ken Seiling, a member of the police board, said there are serious penalties for board members who overstep their boundaries and the operational role of police boards has always been a “grey area.”

Tom Galloway, the board chair, said he hopes there will be further review and clarification from the province in future.

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