“The mandate of the Windsor Police Services Board is to set policy and to maintain an adequate and efficient police service, working with the community, city council and the police service.”
-(From the Windsor Police Service website)
Events already this year leave little hope that the Windsor Police Service Board is capable of discharging its mandate to provide meaningful oversight to the Windsor Police Service. It appears despairingly inept and out of touch, despite facing pointed criticism from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission in August 2020.
The Commission investigated and decided upon five complaints it received from officers in 2018, alleging, among other things, unfair and opaque promotion processes within the force; harassment – reputedly serious enough to constitute a ‘poisoned work environment’; erratic and inconsistent responses to their workplace accommodation requests; deficient workplace harassment and accommodation policies; and the failure of the Board to fulfill its mandate of statutory oversight in respect of these matters. During the investigation, the Commission expanded its scope to address questions surrounding the response to a 911 call from (the then) Chief Frederick’s home.
The Commission’s report runs 47 pages and is a very well-organized and coherent summary, analysis of and response to these issues. Despite camouflaging its reproval in upbeat bureaucratic language, it made some damning observations and provided some very elementary recommendations to the Board.
During the investigation the Commission interviewed members of the Board and addressed many issues. Among their complaints of the Board:
- With respect to promotion and advancement of women on the force, the Commission noted: “…the Board was enthusiastic about the efforts being made by the Service to recruit more women…[it] regarded the strategies to recruit women to be successful…. However, the Board was unable to identify how it measures the success of the Service’s recruitment strategies. No such metrics for success exist in the Service.”
- When the Commission evaluated the facts surrounding the 911 call response to the Chief’s personal residence (which did not implicate him in any wrongdoing), the Board advised that it did not have a policy to address a call to the Chief’s house. The Commission provided it with some guidance to assist in the creation of such a policy and reiterated its importance when it met with the Board months later. Ultimately, it took a year to complete its policy: “The Board did not develop its policy on investigating the Chief or Deputy Chiefs for an extended period of time, and the ultimate development of that policy was prompted, in part, by media scrutiny.”
- Ironically, when the Board got around to creating a policy, the Commission pointed out the absurdity that it ascribed certain responsibilities to the Chief (yes, the same person who would be the subject of the investigation), and commented not only on the inappropriateness of that, but stated the obvious: “Indeed, it undermines the rationale for the Policy.”
- When hiring for the Deputy Chief and Chief positions, the Board retained an outside agency to assist in the selection process but did not provide the agency with the personnel files of any candidates. The Commission found that “It was not the agency’s role to determine whether candidates faced outstanding complaints or had a relevant disciplinary record.”
- The Board “appeared, at times, to accept, without sufficient scrutiny, what it was told by the Service.” It then referenced eleven recommendations made earlier on drug exhibit controls, about which the Service had told the Board and Commission it had already completed ten. When the Commission checked and found this was not true it indicated: “It appears that the Service’s initial response would have gone unquestioned without further intervention by the Ministry. The lesson here is simply that the Board must play a critical role in asking the hard questions required to ensure the Service is not merely ‘checking the right box’ or responding to issues in a less than effective way.”
This year, more news arrived about Chief Pam Mizuno’s resignation last March. Her ascension to Chief was heralded with great fanfare as she was the first female Chief of Police in the Service’s 152 year history in October 2019, but she resigned last year less than half way through her 5-year contract, citing family reasons (“At this point in my life, my attention is drawn primarily to my family and I cannot commit the time that I feel is merited to fulfil my duties as Chief of Police.”)This seems odd so soon after having applied for and receiving this senior position – but, in fairness, the pandemic affected everybody differently, and perhaps that was her legitimate reason.
But news outlets reported in March of this year that she earned over $270,000.00 in salary and taxable benefits for the 2022 year – even though she only worked for less than three months that year. How does that happen? And don’t tell me about ‘golden parachutes’ – those are negotiated in the event an executive is removed involuntarily within a certain time. Who gets to negotiate such a severance when they voluntarily choose to leave before the term of their contract? That is rare enough to beg questions, like why was that money really paid to her? For her silence? And if there is no sinister reason, then how was her lawyer able to outsmart the Board and its counsel either when the deal was drafted or when her release was ‘negotiated.’
We’ll never know the reason for Chief Mizuno’s departure. When questioned by media, Mayor Dilkens, the Chair of the Board curtly advised: “Chief Mizuno has retired from the organization, and we have an agreement and I’m not able to speak to it anymore.” And, when asked if Mizuno will also appear on the Sunshine List for 2023 when it comes out in the spring of 2024, Dilkens coyly replied, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Finally, in January of this year City Council re-appointed Sophia Chisolm to the Board, a “white woman who held the position before, and is a senior vice-president at the WFCU Credit Union”, whom former councillor Rino Bortolin described as enjoying a “high degree of privilege.”She was on the Board at the time of the complaints investigated by the Commission, as was the Chair mayor Dilkens, and his appointed councillor, Jo-Anne Gignac, meaning three-fifths of the old crew are back.
Days later CBC and Windsor Star reported on the candidacy of Criminology Professor Natalie Deckard, whose application was passed over along with applications from 47 others. Deckard is a founding director of the Black Studies Institute at the University of Windsor, and her research literally “focuses on how law enforcement intersects with marginalized communities” and she also worked in prisons and directly with officers.
A week before the Deckard story broke, and in response to the wave of criticism that abounded, Mayor Dilkens gave a statement to CBC indicating that: “it is often a challenge to recruit individuals of quality and substance to participate.” Locals weren’t the only voices in opposition to the move. Susan Toth, the outgoing Hispanic Chair of the London Police Services Board complained: “With an all-white board, where’s the trust there? How does a person from a community that’s been disproportionately over-policed feel trust that an all-white board understands the issues and is going to be able to govern in a way that provides adequate and effective policing for those communities as well?“
Not much cause for optimism.
 At p. 21.
 At p. 34.
 At p. 34.
 At p. 26.
 At p. 34-5.