Former officer hopes report into Windsor police will be 'wake-up call' for rest of province

·3 min read

Former Toronto police officer Jake Shen says he hopes a report expected Friday afternoon from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) looking into an allegedly 'poisoned work environment' at the Windsor Police Service will set an example for police services across the province.

"I really hope that whatever the content of the report is it's going to be a wake-up call for not just Windsor Police Service, [but] also for all police services across Ontario," said Shen, who is now a criminal lawyer.

Shen said he thinks that what the Windsor Police Service is facing is not just unique to them and that "every service probably has similar issues."

The report, which has taken about two years to complete, follows an investigation that was launched by the OCPC in May 2018 following multiple complaints from members of the service raising serious concerns about the workplace environment.

The OCPC is an independent oversight agency that rules on policing services under the Police Services Act.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who was elected chair of the police board in 2015, said the investigation was prompted after "five or six" officers issued complaints.

On Thursday, Dilkens told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that he is "excited" to get his hands on the long-awaited report.

Windsor police Staff Sgt. Christine Bissonnette said she is one of the complainants that launched the investigation. She has alleged in a Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearing that gender bias was what caused her to be passed over for several promotions. The HRTO has not yet ruled on that complaint.

In an email to CBC News Thursday, Bissonnette said "Over the last 28 years I have brought forward several concerns related to the ongoing systemic abuse at the Windsor Police Service workplace.

I have approached several government agencies that provide human rights oversight. I have called attention to many issues including bullying, intimidation and the lack of gender equality.

Hopefully, with this report by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission change can be achieved.

I hope this report gives courage to the many silent others at Windsor Police Service and across the province to finally speak out."

CBC is not aware of the total number of complaints to the commission.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Complaints being investigated by the OCPC include:

  • Concerns over "improper interference in specific legal proceedings."

  • Allegations of a "poisoned work environment."

  • Transparency of the hiring and promotional process.

The investigation was also expanded to include how a 911 call was handled at the home of former Windsor Police Chief Al Frederick in November 2018.

The OCPC has the power to investigate and inquire into the administration and chief of municipal police services, along with police service boards.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Back in 2018, Thunder Bay's police board was disbanded following a report by the OCPC.

An investigator determined systemic racism against Indigenous people was a major issue with the service and had influenced a number of investigations into the deaths the community experienced.

Shen said it's hard to know what the findings and recommendations will be for the Windsor Police Service and board.

"It could be very drastic, it could be just some recommendations," he said.

For the most part, Shen anticipates the report will focus on the service's management and their hiring and promotional processes.

At the end of it all, Shen said he hopes Windsor Police will "embrace and adopt at least some of the recommendations."