Winnipeg police denial of security clearance for a city councillor appointed to the Winnipeg Police Board should be reviewed by the provincial police watchdog, the former board chair says.
In a letter sent to Minister of Justice Cliff Cullen and Independent Investigation Unit civilian director Zane Tessler Friday, Coun. Kevin Klein asked the minister to intervene in the jurisdictional grey area and order a public review of the process by the IIU.
"I want to ensure that we regain public trust. Right now it is deteriorating. I have no other motive other than I believe the citizens of Winnipeg, elected officials, and members of the police service need to know what is happening here," said Klein, who stepped down from the board in June.
Point Douglas city councillor Vivian Santos is weighing her options to hold onto the board seat after failing a police security clearance check. Santos did not return a request for comment on Friday.
Cullen said his office cannot assign an investigation to the police watchdog.
"Only the chief of police (or a designated senior officer) can refer a matter or notify the IIU of an investigation," Cullen said in a written statement.
Klein believes comments by city councillors and others criticizing police involvement in the board appointment process amount to allegations of "misconduct" that question the integrity of police and elected officials.
"We’ve created a situation that is dividing the city and that has to be addressed; we cannot simply ignore this," he said.
It’s unclear if the issues outlined by Klein would fall under the purview of the IIU, which investigates serious incidents such as police involvement in injuries and deaths, and criminal behaviour, specified by the Police Services Act. A spokesman for the IIU declined to comment.
Ian Scott, a lawyer and former director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, said the issue likely wouldn't meet the mandate of an independent investigative unit, barring malice or breach of trust by police in denying security clearance.
"This strikes me as pretty far afield," Scott said. "Their mandate is to do criminal investigations… this doesn’t sound criminal to me at all."
Mayor Brian Bowman waded into the issue Friday saying he is open to examining changes to the appointment process at the council level.
"Without having all of the facts pertaining to this specific matter, I would caution folks from reading in certain judgments about not only Coun. Santos, but also the Winnipeg Police Service without having those facts," he said.
Bowman suggested the City of Winnipeg is following the spirit of the Police Services Act in requiring a comprehensive security screening for board members.
However, the provincial regulation only requires a background check be conducted, Cullen said, and it’s city bylaw that requires board members to "pass a background security check."
"On the broader question of whether potential board police members should receive a security check by the agency they would oversee, it is anticipated the Police Board Regulation will be considered as part of the review of the Police Services Act, which is well underway," he said.
— with files from Joyanne Pursaga
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.