Ottawa police clamp down on suspension information, third officer quietly suspended in one-month span

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Ottawa police will no longer routinely tell police officers when fellow cops are suspended from duty, saying that the decision to release that information will now be made on a case-by-case basis. The service will also no longer confirm all suspensions to this newspaper.

The revelation came in an interview Thursday in which police explained the criteria and rationale for suspending officers with pay and why that is not, in the service’s eyes, a punishment that would require revealing the officers’ identities. Those questions came after a Citizen investigation last year which revealed that there is no public accounting of suspended officers’ identities and the reasons for their suspensions.

This policy change was revealed just one day after the service suspended a third officer in 2021 without notifying members of the service.

Const. Troy Forgie was suspended from duty with pay on Wednesday amid an ongoing internal disciplinary investigation for allegations of using the police database for personal reasons, this newspaper has learned. No suspension notice was issued.


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Forgie did not reply to a request for comment and the Ottawa Police Association also declined to comment on his behalf.

In the span of one month, Ottawa police have suspended three police officers and not released their names to the force’s membership. It would have been considered a departure from policy, except now police say they amended the policy in February without telling officers, their police union or even the police services board before doing so.

“Internal notification of suspensions, that’s an administrative function at the discretion of the chief,” said Insp. Hugh O’Toole, who oversees the Ottawa police professional standards section, the unit that investigates officer misconduct. “Every incident is determined on its own merit, including the decision to suspend, also as it applies to internal and external communications.”

On Friday, the service said it “won’t be responding” to specific questions about the suspension of that third officer, nor did it confirm his suspension. This newspaper also asked explicitly whether the service would confirm suspensions if asked by reporters. The service did not answer that question.

O’Toole said Thursday the typical way of doing business was to have what’s called a “general order” from the chief’s office announcing the suspension of any cop to all officers.

“This was established practice to always send out the GO … and that was to fulfill our obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to notify members whenever there’s a potential workplace risk.”


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Police would also collect the badge, gun and the officer’s security pass — which is necessary for them to gain access to OPS buildings — from any suspended officer.

O’Toole said that there is latitude in the Act. That is why in February, unbeknownst to officers and the association, the service decided that issuing those orders to all officers “rarely served it’s intended purpose.”

O’Toole said: “A lot of people were finding out about member suspensions that pose absolutely no risk at all.”

O’Toole said the service is now attempting to balance that obligation to provide cops the notice with the individual officer’s right to privacy and wellness considerations.

“We determined that a more appropriate response is to assess risk on a case-by-case basis and notify as needed, to whom needed, versus sort of a blanket general order,” O’Toole said. “We made that process change in February. We did it in the moment when we were dealing with two serious matters.

“I think, in retrospect, if we could do a take-back, we would have notified the membership, the board, the association of the change of process in advance. We are working very quickly to develop that messaging now after the fact. We recognize that there’s a strong public interest in our process.”

O’Toole said that while various legislation might limit what the police can say about any given matter, the service still needs to be transparent about its suspension processes.

When asked how much of the process change was influenced by this newspaper’s reporting on the identities of suspended officers, O’Toole said the “level of media scrutiny on suspensions generally highlighted to us that we do owe the community a very high level of accountability.”


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Suspended officers, too, could raise concerns about fairness if some of their names are released internally and others are not.

“There’s always the risk that that could be a perception,” O’Toole said. But, he said, the general oversight process for suspensions is very rigorous.

This newspaper’s questions about suspensions arose from a 2020 investigation in which it identified officers suspended with pay amid a growing local politicking to have the provincial government allow police chiefs to suspend some officers without pay and a wider reckoning of police accountability. The service would previously notify officers at the beginning and end of every officer suspension, but would not proactively reveal those suspensions to the public.

“Suspensions generally are considered administrative in nature,” O’Toole said. “The essential point to remember about administrative suspensions — they’re not intended to be punitive. Rather, they’re an aspect of the chief’s authority to control and administer the police service. Not to punish, but to remove members from duty for reasons related to the protection of the public and/or the police service. It’s not a disciplinary process. There’s no hearing involved in suspension and (officers) have no right of appeal. It’s solely at the discretion of the chief and we have a process to arrive at those decisions.”

O’Toole said, “Generally … suspension is reserved for the most serious cases.”


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Additionally, the material circumstances of any one case often change.

“What it really comes down to is the balancing act between public and police safety, public trust and confidence in the police service and our common-law duty of procedural fairness to our members and member wellness. Our duty of care as a police service extends to everyone, both internally and externally.”

O’Toole said the service makes those decisions in what’s called a case conference — a meeting of superintendents, the force’s legal department, O’Toole as the inspector of professional standards and the chief’s executive officer. That team will make recommendations, including the recommendation to suspend. But ultimately, the decision is the chief’s — he can accept the recommendation or reject it.

The nine criteria to suspend include the seriousness of the allegations and the reliability of the evidence known to police

“We want to act as soon as we’re able, but oftentimes we don’t have all the cards, for lack of a better term. But we’re still in a position where we have to do something,” O’Toole said.

Police also consider the prior disciplinary record of the officer and whether, short of suspension, they can apply other conditions — such as moving the officer to desk duties — to mitigate any risk.

Police ponder: “What’s the risk to the public and to police if this member is not suspended?” O’Toole said the service puts a lot of weight on this question and that this assessment includes thinking about the wellness of the officer.


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It’s in this criteria that the balancing act appears the most clear: As the employer of the officer, the service owes its employees fairness and protection, but as the law enforcement arm of the city, the service has a duty to public transparency and accountability.

“That’s a very difficult tightrope to walk sometimes,” O’Toole said.

Police also consider the public interest, trust and confidence in the service and how the circumstances of the allegation align with service priorities. For example, in the case of an allegation against a police officer that is one of violence against women, that is an explicit priority for the service and the board.

Police must also determine whether there is a potential for reprisals. If they don’t suspend, can the officer cause harm to others?

Lastly, police consider whether suspension is necessary to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

There’s also a weekly meeting of a committee that’s meant to triage these high-risk officer misconduct cases.

O’Toole said that “totality, proportionality and consistency” are guiding principles for all those reviews of officer cases.

OPA president Matt Skof, however, said, “The association has concerns around the inconsistent manner in which the chief has been issuing and announcing suspensions.”

Skof said, “If this new and unknown policy is deemed to be subjective and arbitrary, we will be advancing a grievance.”

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