Suspended officers with WRPS have cost Waterloo region taxpayers $6.4M over the last decade

Data compiled by CBC News shows Waterloo Regional Police Service had 19 officers suspended in the last decade, representing 2.24 per cent of the service.  (Colin Butler/CBC - image credit)
Data compiled by CBC News shows Waterloo Regional Police Service had 19 officers suspended in the last decade, representing 2.24 per cent of the service. (Colin Butler/CBC - image credit)

Police officers who have been suspended with pay have cost Waterloo region taxpayers $6.4 million over the last 11 years, according to data compiled by CBC News.

The data shows Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) had 19 officers suspended in the last decade, representing 2.24 per cent of the service. Spokesperson Cherri Greeno said the service currently has one officer suspended with pay.

"The officer was suspended June 6, 2023 as a result of an ongoing investigation concerning unsatisfactory work performance under the Police Services Act," she said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

The average suspension for officer with WRPS is 717 days, which is higher than the provincial average of 675 days. In Guelph, the average suspension was 2007 days, according to the data.

In Guelph, data showed one officer had been suspended in the last decade, representing 0.45 per cent of the service. That has cost Guelph tax payers $899,167.

Guelph Police Service says they continue to have one officer suspended.

CBC News investigation found that police suspensions cost Ontario taxpayers about $134 million over the past 11 years. The investigation collected publicly available information about officers across 44 police departments.

In Ontario, almost 35 per cent of the allegations against suspended officers involved gender-based violence including sexual assault, intimate partner violence and sexual harassment.

Officers can now be suspended without pay

Every police officer in Ontario must comply with a code of conduct from the moment they are hired. If suspected of violating this disciplinary code or breaking the law, their chief can suspend them.

Police chiefs in Ontario have long called for more authority to be able to fire problematic members and suspend officers without pay, as is the policy in other jurisdictions in Canada.

Until recently, Ontario was the only province that required all suspended officers receive their full pay to stay home, unless they had been denied bail or sentenced to imprisonment.

"While we have not verified the accuracy of the financial analysis provided by CBC K-W, the Waterloo Regional Police Service, in collaboration with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, has long advocated for legislative reforms to empower chiefs of police to suspend officers without pay when warranted," WRPS Chief Mark Crowell said in a statement to CBC News.

Suspensions with pay remains largely supported by Ontario police unions, who say than unless an officer is convicted of wrongdoing, they are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Crowell said though changes with the Community Safety and Policing Act is a positive step forward, more measures may be needed to improve public confidence.

"Balancing member rights with the responsible use of public funds remains a priority for WRPS and police services provincially," he said.

No agency or government office tracks or makes public the total number of suspensions in the province, leaving the public in the dark about the scope of suspensions, the allegations that led to them and their outcomes critics say.

Kate Puddister, a professor at the University of Guelph who researches criminal justice and public policy, told CBC News that's a problem.

"The public can't have confidence in the accountability system if they don't know about it," Puddister said.

As of April 1, chiefs can suspend officers without pay if they're in jail or on bail with conditions that would interfere with their ability to do their job, or if the officer is charged with a serious off-duty offence that could also lead to their firing.