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Editorial: Nudging SIU change

There was much food for thought in Justice Michael Tulloch’s recent report on three police oversight bodies in Ontario, particularly for lawyers.

Put simply, police officers in Ontario are facing difficult times when it comes to public confidence in their actions.

The 2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim, which led to a conviction of attempted murder for Const. James Forcillo, and a recent case where three Toronto police officers were charged with sexual assault have done few favours in terms of public perception of police bodies.

In addition to those issues, there are systemic problems between the police and marginalized communities, as Tulloch noted.

“For some communities, particularly Black and Indigenous communities, historical realities have led to a distrust of the police, a distrust that sometimes extends to the oversight bodies themselves,” said Tulloch in the “Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review.” Tulloch rightly concludes this is a problem.

Take the Special Investigations Unit, a body that looks into cases where a person is seriously injured or dies in an interaction with police.

He noted that “the SIU directorship has displayed a lack of diversity over the years.” The report notes that, in 27 years, the SIU has had 13 directors and the directors have not “reflected the racial diversity of the province.”  He also stated that there “is no reason why the director has to be a lawyer.”

“In my opinion, the SIU directorship’s overall lack of cultural and professional diversity is problematic, especially for an organization that serves such a diverse community of stakeholders,” said Tulloch.

Therefore, he recommended that “when recruiting and selecting candidates for the SIU directorship, the government should place greater value on cultural and professional diversity.”

Tulloch is nudging the province toward a new approach, including bringing non-lawyers into the organization. He’s right.

Bringing in new expertise may have a much-needed beneficial effect to restore public confidence.

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