fter labelling the situation an “emergency” less than a year ago, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has given the Peterborough Police Services Board a clean bill of health — as long as the mayor stays at arm’s length.
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A final report on the health of the beleaguered Peterborough, Ont., police board was released Aug. 1. It’s 80 pages long and makes several recommendations including that Mayor Daryl Bennett refrains from joining the board.
The OCPC suspended the mayor from the police board in 2012 while it investigated 11 allegations of misconduct against him; he was found guilty of all 11 in 2014, but, in a change of heart last year, the OCPC dropped all charges but one — that the mayor had made disparaging comments about Police Chief Murray Rodd.
Bennett said he was unavailable for interviews Wednesday, but issued a written statement that called into question the need for the inquiry in the first place.
“Mr. Sandler was appointed in response to a supposed emergency situation regarding the Police Services Board that no one has been able to adequately explain,” he wrote. “The Board functions the same today as it did before his appointment.”
Regarding Sandler’s direct comments about him, Bennett said they serve “little or no purpose.”
In March of 2016, the OCPC turned its focus to the police board itself, determining in December 2016 that “the ongoing dysfunction of the PPSB constitutes an emergency and that the appointment of an administrator . . . is necessary in the public interest.”
The commission appointed Mark Sandler to oversee the police board from Dec. 16, 2016, to July 1, 2017.
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In his summary report released Aug. 1, Mark Sandler characterized the conflict between the board and the mayor as ongoing:
“Before and during my time as administrator, the mayor made inflammatory, divisive and inaccurate comments about the senior leadership and the police service,” Sandler wrote. “Legitimate concerns have been expressed about the ability of the board, and the police service itself, to function properly were he to return to the board.”
“It would be unwise for the mayor to return to the board,” he said. “This view is held not only by his detractors but by some who admire him. The board has been through a tumultuous period. It must now look forward. It would be difficult to be forward-thinking if the mayor or an obvious proxy for the mayor were to become a board member at this time.”
Sandler also recommends the board do more succession planning and public engagement. The report suggests moving police board meetings into the community.