Ontario should create a college of policing

Posted on May 3, 2017 in Governance Delivery System

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – As the province seeks to halt the erosion of public trust in police and to tackle an often change-resistant law-enforcement culture, such a body could do a world of good.
May 1, 2017.   By

Given the extraordinary powers granted to police, it seems odd that in Ontario the field of law enforcement is not subject to the same sort of consistent, province-wide professional standards as, say, the skilled trades or midwifery. You can’t lay brick in this province without a licence. Surely use of lethal force deserves no less oversight.

As Justice Michael Tulloch argued in his recent far-reaching report on police reform, we have a problem. “The requirements needed to enter and continue in the profession of policing in Ontario remain largely static, ill-defined, and inconsistent,” he wrote.

One solution, Tulloch argued, would be for the province to create a regulatory college that would oversee training and uphold ethical standards for police, as similar bodies do for law, medicine and many other professions. The report recommends that Queen’s Park follow the lead of England and Wales, which established a regulatory college of policing in 2012.

As the province seeks to halt the erosion of public trust in police and to tackle an often change-resistant law-enforcement culture, such a body could do a world of good.

In an interview with the Star’s Wendy Gillis last week, the head of the new English college, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, made a compelling case for action. The college is working toward establishing educational requirements for new officers and an ongoing training regimen that reflects the changing nature of police work, Marshall says. The goal is to “raise professional standards in policing and particularly to recognize that police work has changed really quite dramatically in recent years.”

Such a mission holds particular promise in Ontario, where the lack of province-wide standards for hiring and promotion and the patchwork of training programs have left the province few tools for reshaping a police culture that, in Tulloch’s words, has traditionally been “white, male and hyper-masculine.” As more women enter policing and rifts with communities of colour seem to be deepening, this culture is becoming ever more problematic, both in terms of civil rights and public safety.

As Tulloch argued in his report, a college of policing could mandate province-wide training in anti-racism studies, mental health, domestic abuse and other areas where the education officers received as cadets may now be obsolete. And it could complement the work of the province’s police watchdogs to ensure that officers who fail to uphold professional standards are held to account.

Modern policing,” Tulloch wrote, “is founded on public trust.” Yet that trust has been eroded in recent years. Rebuilding it will require openness and accountability. A college of policing could go a long way toward enhancing both.


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