Mayor Crombie Vacates Seat on Peel Police Board
It's official—Mayor Bonnie Crombie is no longer on the Peel Police Services Board.
In an open letter issued by her office, Crombie thanked the other members of the board for their time served, outlined some of the initiatives she pushed during her time on the board and wished Ward 10 Councillor Sue McFadden the best of luck. Mcfadden officially took the role on January 1 of this year and will serve until December 31, 2018.
In her time on the Police Board, Crombie had, along with Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, pushed for an end to the police practice of street checks, which the Board voted in September 2015 to suspend. Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans said she would continue the practice despite the Board's vote, but province later moved to suspend the practice (and new rules restricting the practice came into effect Jan. 1).
The Board also approved a diversity and equity audit of police services to ensure there were visible minorities on the force, including senior officers. The police budget, which had been gradually increasing for years, was presented to the public for the first time.
The board will still continue to administer those reforms as well as deal with two important matters at hand: Chief Evans' contract (which expires this year—the board has to determine whether to renew it), as well as the $21 million lawsuit from a woman who was hit by a stray bullet from a Peel police officer. That matter is now under the SIU's jurisdiction, but Evans has been accused of interfering with the investigation by allegedly visiting the victim in the hospital.
So why did Mayor Crombie step down and allow herself to be replaced? The change was based on a prearranged agreement made at the beginning of the council term in 2014 (which I wrote an article about). In the article, I argued that Crombie should perhaps hold her position because of her work and familiarity with the issues.
Councillor McFadden challenged some arguments in the article and was kind enough to call Insauga and provide her take on how she would handle things as a newly minted Police Board member. The following were my questions to her (in bold) and her answers below.
How would you handle the role of a member of the Peel Police Services Board differently than Mayor Crombie? Would you continue the somewhat activist role the mayor has played on the board, or look for an alternative approach?
"As a member of council for the past 10 years, I pride myself on doing my homework. I fully expected the mayor to sit down with me to discuss what she has been doing on the Police Board, following our agreement that she would sit on the board for half the term and I would take over in the latter half. A deal's a deal, and I expected her to honour our deal."
"While there have been many media publications reporting on issues pertaining to policing matters in Peel, I don't like getting information through the media; the rest of council have not been privy to the information the mayor has been getting. I'll go into it with an open mind, but I'm not there to be an activist and go with an agenda. I prefer to go in there and work with the Chief and the PRP on achieving solutions that benefit everyone, not go stabbing people in the back."
I asked Councillor McFadden her views on the Chief's police budget prior to it being presented back in September and approved, with a 3.2 percent spending increase, so her answers are based on her general position on police funding:
"I believe in safety first, I believe in community policing and proactive policing, so I would not cut those areas. I haven't seen the budget yet, but the police don't get many demands for cuts because our residents demand quality service. They want more money into policing; those things are the meat of our community. The majority of my community are immigrants. They want people to be pulled over, and to be checked out to see if they belong in the area or not."
"Everyone benefits from proactive policing. We have a diverse police force. Our officers don't know if they come home every night. My husband was a firefighter, so I know that feeling and that risk of a loved one serving the public in that capacity."
Regarding the issue of street checks, I honestly have not heard any other council member, other than Councillor Parrish, express an opinion on the matter. I understand carding has been suspended in Ontario, but have you ever expressed an opinion on that policy?
"Ward 10 residents are the same as other Mississauga citizens; we want safe streets and safe communities, so I don't see why I would be any less effective than the Mayor in understanding these issues. If there is a concern from any policy that any government puts down, from any level, people are always going to have concerns with it. In my opinion, working with the Chief would be the better alternative. You get more with talking to people than fighting the system. The worst way is to have morale go down the proverbial tubes."
Councillor McFadden indicated she didn't like getting her information through the media, and that gave me pause. I understand relying on a range of sources for information, but most media outlets do their due diligence and offer "the other side of the story." If McFadden avoids gleaning information from the media, that could be worrisome.
That said, McFadden presents a viewpoint that gets swept under the rug during discussions about street checks and carding. While many people have discussed very real racial discrepancies with carding, she is saying that, in Ward 10, residents tend to agree that public safety is paramount and that that should be the focus. Perhaps most residents in her ward feel that way, but those feelings may not be representative of viewpoints in other communities.
Councillor McFadden also said that her residents tell her that police should check if people wandering around belong in the area or not. It reminds me of when Chief Evans said people who are in certain neighbourhoods they are not from might be suspicious. The councillor and the chief are not saying the exact same thing, but it sounds awfully similar.
The notion that if you don't belong in this neighbourhood, you should stay away from it, turns off a lot of young people. Cities are more connected and it's not unusual to people to visit different neighbourhoods. People want to explore their communities. We shouldn't give the impression to law-abiding citizens they aren't welcome to explore their own city.
Overall, it appears—and this could change—that McFadden displays more of a deference to the police, as opposed to Crombie's more activist approach. The councillor is bringing a more diligent, behind the scenes approach that stresses working closely with the established institutions in charge, which was how it was done before. This is probably why some people have been nervous about seeing the board's approach to various issues during this term.
So good luck to Councillor McFadden as she takes on her role as a member of the Peel Police Services Board. We've seen what results being more proactive will get you; let's see how someone who says she has a cooler head handles things.
Follow me on Twitter at @thekantastic