The former Ottawa police chief gives his version
Comment board is open again. Try to be nice to one another.
I appreciated the tone of this piece. It reminds us that the participants in charge of the police work in Ottawa are humans, c/w all their frailties and character flaws and pressures to make good decisions on the fly.
Good decision making is often accompanied by a measure of good luck. Chief Sloly would have been a genius (not that he would have been credited for it) had the Convoy packed up and left within a few days. Because fate headed in the opposite direction, Sloly wears the goat horns instead.
Louis L’Amour would call Chief Sloly a rank outsider, parachuted into a plum job ahead of two 30 year veterans. Perhaps that is the real tragedy, a well meaning and dedicated police officer who never gained the trust of underlings or his civilian masters. When everyone is mad at you before a crisis strikes, that becomes a problem.
Powerful and thoughtful. Thanks for portraying Mr. Sloly as a human being and a good person. We are all to quick to judge, me included.
I appreciate Paul providing this much background on Sloly's decency and intelligence. He may have been the wrong person in the wrong place, but he wouldn't have made Chief without some qualities and skills. As a former army officer, with experience of interpreting intelligence operationally, I can't be too critical of him missing the warnings about the convoy intending a long-term occupation. Paul Wells is right, I think, to note the OPS had a *lot* of experience with protests that came and went. He also had the handicap of being an outsider brought in to reform a service that had long suffered from deep problems. Where I think the previous testimony shows criticism to be justified is not using all his resources effectively (liaison teams, bylaw enforcement), his failure to establish a clear chain of command, and his requests for support from other agencies without a a specific plan as to how they'd be used. Paul is just getting to this at the end. I hope there's a part two.
I hope others beside Justin Ling raise the issue of whether the police were afraid that many protesters were concealing weapons, and feared using a heavy hand, only to have shots fired and people really hurt. Maybe them.
Ling has an exclusive - as far as I know - in writing that (illegally) loaded shotguns were found in some trucks. Has anybody else reported that? Imagine walking out into a crowd of people that were hollering "tyranny and treason" a lot, were known to have guns - and your back is always to half of the crowd.
But the real elephant in the room, for long-term police critics, is the unstated fact that police do not engage in *battle*. They cannot afford to ever be in a conflict where the outcome is in doubt, where they even *might* lose. They must always be seen as invincible, that's their protection - the criminal's belief that fighting the police is always going to end up badly for them. So police are friendly and de-escalating unless they can utterly overwhelm the demonstration.
The notion that the police alone "could have" overcome the demonstration must be judged on that basis - could OPS have shut down any possible opposition to being pushed out of the downtown, without any risk, any pitched battles, and definitely without pulling out lethal force? Would the crowd have been intimidated by some pepper spray and tasers, or enraged and willing to charge the line? It' just takes one front line of utter hotheads, willing to take some blows and burning eyes, to get it started.
An official like Sloly is hindered from just saying that, because "The police must always dominate and control every encounter, for their own safety and the arrestee" is not an official policy, and after 2020, not a popular one.
It should be no surprise that authorities were unable to understand and predict the behaviour of the convoy participants: given the situation, it was nearly inevitable.
By imposing unjustifiable (I won’t bore with a repetition of the proof, well-established before mandates were imposed, that the covid vaccines carried significant risk of harm and did not prevent transmission) mandates, governments across the country turned 15% of the population into permanent (“until covid is over”) second class citizens.
We had been a cross section of Canadians, from poor to wealthy, from all different provinces and backgrounds. Now, with the stroke of a pen, we were fired from our jobs, barred from society, denied hospital visits for our loved ones, and even some medical treatment. Our children were kicked out of sports, many schools, colleges and universities. We were barred from travel and even, effectively, from leaving the county. We were told we were dirty and diseased. We were reviled by political, social, and even religious leaders, and many of our friends and family.
This is the moment the journalists of Canada failed in their duty. Rather than denouncing, or even honestly describing, this barbarity, they stuck a happy face on it.
At that moment Canada split. The majority continued to believe what the media told them, that there was no great injustice being done, and were thereby rendered mentally incapable of grasping the scale of the convoy and the resolution of its members and supporters. That the convoy raised more money, faster, than any cause in Canadian history - three separate times - was a fact media believers simply could not engage with.
The other group, who knew the media was lying, understood what was happening, and knew that the convoy was big, and would not give up easily. But those people also knew the scale of the injustice being perpetrated upon us, and supported the convoy’s goals, if not in every case its methods.
The commission is revealing this split, but cannot heal it. While much of the discrimination has been relaxed, much is still going on - and still supported by many. The only way to reconcile Canadians is with truth - the truth that the mandates were massively harmful and never justified, even if many well meaning Canadians mistakenly supported them. This truth must come from a source that people who believe the media trust - the media. It is time for journalists to do their duty - tell the truth. If they had told the truth before the convoy, it might never have happened. If they had told the truth during the convoy, the pressure on Trudeau to drop the mandates would have been irresistible.
Great piece. You have a way of humanizing all of the characters involved. Finally, someone providing us with neutral and critical reporting!
I thought Sloly was brought in to “reform” the OPS by the Police Board & the OPS rank & file used the Trucker Protest as an opportunity to “harpoon” him! Clearly everyone saw the protest as an opportunity with politics being played by everyone!
I watched the full day's hearings and must say, that you seem to be the first person who heard what I heard from Sloly's testimony on Friday. I haven't drawn my conclusions yet and look forward to seeing/hearing yours. But I have a gut feeling. We'll see how it plays out on Monday.
An excellent read, Paul. Thanks, I liked him as well.
Near the end of the day's questioning former Chief Sloly was asked if he had any reflections, maybe anything he would do differently, he touched on two facts. Firstly, the importance of sleep for our physical, emotional and psychological wellness. Sleep, sometimes taken for granted, but so crucial. Secondly, we are merely imperfect humans, we are not super beings, yet the Ottawa Police Services he felt was presented with a super difficult situation.
I supported the right of the Freedom Convoy to protest, but I also respect the right of the residents to quiet enjoyment of their community. We live in a democratic country where different views can be voiced, and protests are permitted. Unfortunately, for a capital city Ottawa has little physical space in which massive protests can take place, particularly during the winter months.
Monday should be interesting.
I also thought his testimony showed he was a man of character. He displays the new breed of police leadership but his values are old school homour and loyalty. Seems like OPS chewed him up and spit him out. I suspect his leadership team and rank and file likely saw him as an outsider and "woke". He was not there long enough to be seen as an one of them and so when they were under fire he was the one unprotected.. Still just a Toronto cop. He relied on them to do their operational roles and keep him updated like he was used to, (things like read intelligence reports )but they didn't.He couldn't trust their work but was then seen as micromanaging when he checked up. He became irritable and had n o pool of goodwill to draw on to view him as just overtired. Disloyal underlings quickly reported this to the board this behind his back. Must have been a very lonely time no wonder he couldn't sleep. I wonder if his leadership team trash talked him to OPP, RCMP, prior and thatnis why their leaders questioned everything down to the minutiae. The rumour mill in LEO circles is efficient. He was brought in to clean up the force. Apparently he lead a corruption investigation since he arrived.The ostracism following investigating your own is well documented. It can lead to having no back up when constable down and certainly we see all the knives out .Unfortunately for his own reputation his loyalty to the blue stopped him from outlining and criticizing their behaviour His code meant he could not defend himself. OPS did not deserve his loyalty. They sabotaged him and this constant second guessing contributed to him making mistakes. He noted himself he situation was beyond his experience ,like it would be for many, but having no team and back up doomed him.
I liked him too. All the cops who have appeared to date have seemed like decent, well-meaning people. Too bad they couldn’t have worked together better. This situation reminds me of SARS and the Paul Bernardo case. All the information was available, too many silos and a lack of trust among too many jurisdictions. BTW the lessons of SARS are why the Public Health Agency of Canada was formed, to try to bring together all these different strands of intel to support better decision-making. Is it time for such a thing in the policing world?
skimmed! One area I find scary was no one read the intelligence reports seriously. Yikes. It seems there was plenty of evidence that this was no regular type protest etc. otherwise I’m with Daniel. One other thought was ,what was his mandate or assumed priorities when hired. Often a leader is picked to fix one set of problems, wakes up up to a whole new set! Furthermore he makes no reference to a mentor or someone whose seen it all! Seemed very isolated. Finally I had no sense any of them had a critical assessment of the earlier report on the tragedy at the cenotaph,storm-in of Parliament by the lone gunman. Plenty of acknowledged risk in our authority structure re-policing etc for all to see. Thanks for the excellent coverage.
I was surprised and impressed with the clarity and emotion in Mr. Sloly's responses because of the media castigation of him over the past year. A number of issues caught my attention but which appear to have been ignored by most commentators. The former chief described the Convoy as being not one but a multitude of convoys each with none or many self-appointed leaders, making negotiations difficult. The OPP had negotiated with some or all of the convoy leaders and reached agreements with them as to their access to city streets The convoys ignored these agreements on reaching the city, again negating any meaningful negotiations. The legal advice to the OPS was that it could not legally deny the truckers access to the city from the regional highways. Keeping in mind the fact that the convoy was made up of a tiny percentage of the population who had refused to follow health department orders, municipal government laws, provincial laws and federal laws because they believe that they have the right to pick and choose which laws they should follow in a democratic country. While people died in their tens of thousands, these convoys raised the contempt of millions of people who believed in the making sacrifices for the public good. An impossible situation for police forces to cope with while also lacking a clear command structure and the failure of leadership from many political leaders.
I understand that Chief Sloly used his best judgement, and decided that the protestors would be in town for only a few days and would depart. He planned accordingly. What I do not understand is why he did not draw up a contingency plan, just in case he was wrong and a massive number of protestors decided to stay indefinitely. Was he so confident in his own judgement that he could not admit the possibility of being wrong?
This piece reminded me that there's a river running through Ottawa. I'd love to hear from someone north of that river. We've heard from a lot of cops, but seeing as we learned this week it's never too late to compel new witnesses, id love to know what Gatineau police thought of the convoy. They dealt with the Farfadaas, and seemed to succeed in avoiding a second Coventry Road situation. The second and third weekends, they seemed to show some attempt at helping by closing lanes on the Mac-Cartier bridge, which just seemed to snarl traffic but didn't stop the flow of F-150s with Fck Trudeau drapeaus. The second Saturday i got stuck in Hull and walked back across Alexandra with my kids, among a constant flow of folks in both directions shouting about libâaarté. (Seriously i wish everyone who is proud of this "Western" movement would understand how many of the trucks had 819 numbers on them) Really, this isn't trolling, i just do wonder what police on the other side thought, what they were told, what they were prepared to do to help, etc. Maybe after Counsellor Fleury, the Commission couldn't handle another Francophone... Oh darn, now i am trolling after all...