Having served on the Ottawa Police Services Board over the last year, I had the privilege of backing significant progress towards reform and countless new operational ways of supporting people in crisis including new sensitivity to people with mental health issues and a formal recognition of the impact race plays in these interactions.

I have witnessed a new openness and willingness to tackle these issues within the Ottawa Police Service and a directness and level of honesty to discuss these issues across police ranks.

Since he was sworn in a year and a half ago, Chief Sloly and his team at the Ottawa Police have been playing a key role in rebuilding relationships and trust within our racialized communities – and that starts with the makeup of our police service itself. I’m proud that this commitment to diversity is reflected in the Service’s recent graduating class of 96 recruits – which included 32 women, 31 racialized men and three Indigenous new officers.

Additionally, Chief Sloly has reinstated the Neighbourhood Policing Program, which helps our officers forge lasting and meaningful relationships with residents and community partners in at-risk neighbourhoods.

In 2019, three Neighbourhood Resource Teams were deployed in Vanier/Overbrook; Heron Gate/South Ottawa; and Carlington/Caldwell. Due to their success, the program was expanded to three more neighbourhoods last year: the ByWard Market/Lowertown in May – and Centretown and Bayshore in the fall.  Under this model, the officers are dedicated exclusively to their assigned neighbourhoods for a minimum of two years, where they work with local residents, schools, not-for-profit organizations, business associations and City staff to better understand and address crime and its underlying socio-economic issues.

Adequate mental health response, as well as anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism training, are at the core of these programs. At the Ottawa Police Services Board in January, Chief Sloly tabled a plan to engage with the community on how OPS can better support the safety and well-being of residents with mental health challenges, including how officers respond to people in mental health crisis.

I support the work of Chief Peter Sloly as he works to reform and bring about change within the Ottawa Police Service. If we remain committed and steadfast in our resolve, we can create an inclusive and responsive police service that can better serve all residents.