Major trust issues with Ottawa Police

A new study looks at how people who interact with Ottawa police come away from those experiences feeling worse about their safety and their trust in the institution.

Robert Hiltz
25 Apr

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Good morning!

Spring has sprung maybe at last? It’s the time of year when going for a walk with Lady Bird turns into stopping every few metres so she can eat some grass. Sometimes I wonder if she’s more goat than dog.

Some good news though, it might be Monday, but it could be the hottest day of the year so far, according to weather historian Rolf Campbell. The temperature is forecast to go as high as +25. And the forecast low of +9 would be the highest low yet. Pretty soon I might be able to retire the “+” and “-” in the forecast. (But not just yet, I don’t want to tempt fate and get blamed for a dump of snow expected Wednesday.)

How about we get the week started with some news?

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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Monday: +25 🌡️ +9 | ⛈

Tuesday: +15 🌡️ +1 | ⛅️

Wednesday: +6 🌡️ 0 | ❄️

The Trust Crisis In Ottawa Policing

Feeling unsafe: Half of the people (49.2 percent) who took part in a new study said dealing directly with the Ottawa Police Service felt less safe afterward. It’s a shocking figure found by University of Ottawa researchers in their Experiences of Encounters with the Police in Ottawa report. The researchers also found only 5.8 percent of respondents felt safer after dealing with police.

Other findings: 

  • Trust in police was low at 21 percent. That number fell to 2.1 percent among people who struggled to meet their basic needs or finances
  • Overall only 15.4 percent said they had a positive feeling about Ottawa police. Just over half, 51.5 percent, said they had a negative perception. The remaining third said they had a neutral opinion.
  • Many respondents felt racial or social profiling took place before their interaction with police. They also reported racist and Islamophobic comments by police.
  • Some respondents said they sometimes could trust police, but not always. “It would appear that uncertainty about how individual officers will act restricts overall confidence in the institution,” the researchers wrote.

How it was done: Researchers collected the stories of 250 people who had had an encounter with police between March 2019 and February 2021. The research was intended to get the perceptions of people who have directly dealt with police, and the percentages won’t represent the broader population.

Recent complaints: While that research deals with past interactions, things are not looking better right now. Complaints to the force are up in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021. Ottawa police received 327 public complaints, up from 77 in the previous year, CityNews reports

  • The one caveat to this is about 84 percent of this year’s complaints are related to police conduct during the convoy.

What it means: The Ottawa Police Service has a lot of work to do to regain people’s trust. Police interactions are not positive—and that was before the convoy shattered trust more broadly. Without a sincere and open effort to regain that trust, it may never be repaired.

Ottawa By The Numbers

  • $35 million: The total cost of policing the convoy during the occupation, an amount the federal government is going to cover. [CTV] 
  • $1 million: The value (in US dollars) of the XPrize won by the Ottawa-born Planetary Technologies for the company’s carbon-capture technology. [OBJ]
  • 7: The number of people who escaped a Gatineau house fire, where there were no injuries. [Ottawa Citizen]
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Busy Sunday For Water Rescue Crews

Rowers to the rescue: A boat from the Ottawa Rowing Club was the first on the scene to help a kayaker who had fallen into the Ottawa River on Sunday. 

A call for a water rescue came in at about 10:30 am near the Alexandria Bridge, CTV reported, and the rowers were able to get to the distressed man before fire and paramedic crews could arrive. The man was eventually taken to hospital in serious but stable condition.

Kitesurfer in the water: There was a second rescue further up the river near Constance Bay. A kitesurfer went in the water after losing their board in heavy waves. Fortunately, an Ottawa Fire team was on the water training not far away when the call came in that someone was in distress. The surfer had been in the water for about an hour at that point, Ottawa Fire said on Twitter.

Jobs Around Town

Have a job you need advertised? Reply to this email to learn how you can reach more than 21,000 of Ottawa’s most connected leaders.

COVID Round-Up

At the peak? An Ottawa Hospital critical care doctor expects we are at or near the peak of the sixth COVID wave. Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng also told CTV the number of hospitalized COVID patients was much lower than previous waves. The biggest issue has been staffing at the hospital, where outbreaks can leave health care providers isolating at home for up to 10 days. [CTV]

Children’s hospitals hit hard: While things have been better for adults, CHEO is seeing nearly double the normal amount of daily patients for this time of year. The hospital also has about 10 to 15 percent of its workers off sick. [CBC]

Provincial Election Update

PCs campaigning like COVID is done: In a series of pre-election funding announcements, Premier Doug Ford and his government are making a series of transportation-focused promises for the future. A number of political scientists said the campaign looks to be focused on rebuilding the province. About 100 people died from the virus last week in the province. [The Canadian Press] 

$10 billion in promises: The official start isn’t here yet, but the Ford government has already announced about $10 billion in new spending. With a budget expected this week, and the campaign kicking off the week after, it’s likely that number will rise. The biggest outlay so far has been on refunding ($1.1 billion) and cancelling ($1.1 billion every year in lower revenue) licence plate sticker fees. [CBC]

  • You still need to renew! Even though fees are gone, don’t forget to still renew your plates. It doesn’t cost anything, unless you don’t do it—then it’s a $100 fine.

Pre-election polls tighten: Early polls suggest there may be a tight race ahead between Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, and the Liberals of Steven Del Duca. A new poll shows 36 percent of decided voters would vote PC, while 32 would vote Liberal. Only 23 percent said they would vote for the NDP under Andrea Horwath. [CTV]

Stories You Might Have Missed

Motorcycle ride feared to be next convoy: This Friday, a motorcycle ride rolling into town for the weekend has local community groups worried it will be the next convoy. The Community Solidarity Ottawa coalition is worried the 1,000 expected vehicles are just an extension of the convoy. Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell is expected to provide an update at today’s Police Services Board Meeting, which you can watch live on the city’s YouTube channel starting at 4 pm.

Driver lucky to be alive: A 23-year-old charged with driving while suspended is lucky to be alive after crashing his truck so violently it split in two. The driver was injured, but still able to walk away from the crash. It’s not clear what caused the crash, which occurred near Stones Corners in Augusta Township.

Dancer Richard Rutherford fondly remembered: Friends of Rutherford, who was found dead last week at the age of 87, are coming forward to remember the former dancer. “[He] was one of the best people I've known in my life," one friend said. “He always wanted others to succeed. He's very understated. He gave his support to a number of different cultural and community things.” A 69-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder. [CBC]

Have a U-Pass? Transit’s free in May: College and university students in the city will be able to ride OC Transpo for free starting today until the end of May. If you’ve got a U-Pass and were a student during the winter term at Carleton University, Université Saint-Paul, University of Ottawa, or Algonquin College, you’re eligible for the free rides. Special passes will be handed out on campus, see here for details. 

Community Highlights

  • Looking for more information on the city’s new solid waste master plan? Join Coun. Catherine McKenney and others for an online info session tonight from 7 pm to 9 pm.
  • Good news, everyone. The Great Glebe Garage Sale returns this year. You can find all sorts of treasures at the event May 28, 8 am to 2 pm.
  • A group of architects from across the country, including many from here in town, want your opinion on how best to build communities. Fill out Rise for Architecture’s quick survey!
  • One Reddit user is looking to find a good home for some old Polish-language records. Could that be yours? 
  • Apt613 is looking for submissions of poems on the theme of hope in celebration of National Poetry Month. Send yours in before April 29 to get yours into the digital chapbook.
  • Are you missing a budgie? One Reddit user has seen one wandering near Cummings Avenue and Redtail Private. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to catch it.
  • Now that it’s a bit nicer out, you might want to give stargazing a go. Reddit users recommend the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve, Calabogie, White Lake, or even the Experimental Farm.
  • The Sens won an emotional game at home against the Montreal Canadiens 6-4, as the visiting Habs mourned the loss of Guy Lafleur. [CBC]

Today's Top Photo

It’s wabbit season. But rather than hunting the animals, it’s hunting for good rabbit photos, like this one by Reddit user bada_bing

Have a great spring shot, a can’t miss sunset? Send in your best local photos! We’re always looking to share your views with the Lookout community.

Daily COVID Stats

All infection and vaccination data via Ottawa Public Health. You can find the status of the wastewater tracking here. And you can find vaccination stats here.

  • Active Cases: 1,839 (+279)
  • Deaths: 773 (+0)
  • Ottawans In Hospital: 26
  • Ottawans In ICU: 4
  • Acute Beds Occupied: 103% 
  • ICU Beds Occupied: 75% 
  • ICU Ventilator Beds Occupied: 30% 

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Written by managing editor Robert Hiltz and food and wine editor Ralf Joneikies

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