Problems at Peel Police Board Escalate

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If you think only Toronto’s police chief is embroiled in politics with the police board there, think again.

As reported by the Toronto Star’s San Grewal, senior Peel Regional Police officers are calling for the resignation of Peel Police Board chair Amrik Ahluwalia. The reasoning behind it is an apparent perception that Ahluwalia has been making “demeaning and insulting comments” directly at Chief Jennifer Evans, in a letter dated June 24 sent to all member of the police force.

Ahluwalia continues to receive the full backing of Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, both members of the Peel Police Services Board and both pushing for reforms to the police, such as the end of street checks (more popularized as carding).

Let me be clear, these are senior officers of the Peel police and not the chief herself, who says she is committed to working with the board. It would have been a much more explosive headline had the chief called for the board’s resignation, but try to understand police politics here (and yes, there are politics involved).

The chief reports to the board, so for her to call for Ahluwalia’s head would amount to her calling for her own boss to be fired. Has anyone in the professional environment attempted that and emerged unscathed? Probably much safer to get surrogates to do the dirty work.

I mean, since last fall, a number of moves made have hurt the relationship between the police force and the police board, including (via Grewal’s piece):

1. In September, following a June showdown between Chief Jennifer Evans and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie over a request for a review of street checks, also known as carding, the board votes to ask Evans to suspend the controversial practice. Evans refuses the request from her board and tells them her officers will continue carding.

2. In January, the board replaces chair Laurie Williamson, who had been an Evans ally. Amrik Ahluwalia is elected chair. He immediately blasts a carding report brought forward by Evans, and the board as a whole slams the report, saying it fails to understand and address the real issues.

3. In April, the board, under Ahluwalia’s leadership, fires its long-time executive director, Fred Biro. Biro also had been a close ally of Evans and backed her pro-carding stance. The board promises sweeping changes to modernize the force and make it more accountable.

4. In June, following a scathing deputation by an anti-discrimination group alleging that Evans has failed the community on equity and diversity issues, the board votes for an independent equity audit. Evans sends her own scathing letter to Ahluwalia and the board, criticizing the move.

Let’s not ignore the fact that Ahluwalia is the first non-white chair of the Peel Police Board (as far as I know), which for white cops used to dealing with white overseers is probably something they’re still getting used to. Someone who comes from perhaps the largest visible minority (majority?) contingent in the Region of Peel, Sikhs from India, would definitely approach his job with a lens on how the police relate to the community.

As for Chief Evans and her officers, I’m wondering if she perceives her mandate to be about protecting and serving the community, or concerns about the branding of the Peel Regional Police. In her own words…

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