Criminal charges against ex-Thunder Bay police chief ‘deeply disturbing,’ police board chair says

The chair of Thunder Bay’s police services board said last week’s criminal charges against the northwestern Ontario city’s former police chief are “deeply disturbing” and reaffirmed efforts to rebuild community trust in the service.Karen Machado and current police Chief Darcy Fleury spoke at a news conference Monday about the Ontario Provincial Police charges of obstruction and breach of trust against Sylvie Hauth.”The criminal allegations brought forward by the Ontario Provincial Police are deeply disturbing,” Machado said. “There is a legal and ethical expectation … that information provided by Thunder Bay Police Service is truthful and factual, both to the board and to the community.”It is critical for our community to have faith in the system that provides oversight to the Thunder Bay Police Service. I understand how these allegations have caused further doubts in these institutions and the system of policing and police oversight in Thunder Bay.”WATCH | Thunder Bay police board chair, chief speak on rebuilding trust after ex-chief charged:  Thunder Bay Police Service chief, oversight board respond after ex-chief charged by OPPThunder Bay Police Service Chief Darcy Fleury speaks about how the police service is trying to rebuild trust in the northwestern Ontario community, as three current or former members of the service, including the former chief, face criminal charges.Machado said the board has a vision to “modernize the service for the future and build truth and trust with the communities we serve”; that vision, she said, began with the appointment of Fleury and Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes about a year ago.”We are here today to send a strong message that the allegations, the alleged incidents of the past, are not a reflection of the work that is occurring today,” she said. “Our board will not hesitate to act on any allegations of misconduct.”The specific charges the OPP announced Friday against Hauth are:  Obstruction of a public officer or peace officer; Breach of trust by a public officer; Two counts of obstruction of justice. Hauth was suspended in 2022 after the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) brought misconduct charges against her under the Police Services Act. After nearly three decades with the service, she retired in 2023 before those allegations could be tested in a hearing.WATCH | CBC’s Michelle Allan breaks down the latest developments from police: Thunder Bay police, oversight board promise to rebuild trust, as ex-chief faces chargesLeadership of the Thunder Bay Police Service and its oversight board promises to reform as three current or former members of the service face criminal charges.At Monday’s news conference, Fleury said the charges “reinforce for me what I already knew — that a chief of police needs to be honest and accountable.””This investigation began in 2022,” he said. “Leading up to that time, and since then, it has been a challenging time for our community. I acknowledge the erosion of trust in our service by some residents and I’m inspired by the community desire to move forward, together. We are on a healing journey.”Fleury said the service has taken several steps toward rebuilding trust with the community, including forming an Indigenous advisory committee and working to start a diversity committee. Systemic racism, as we know, has been front and centre for many years, in pretty much all of the reports that we’ve seen.- Darcy Fleury, TBPS chief”Some of the boards, the policies or procedures, we have farmed out to some different agencies to have them look at it,” he said. “Systemic racism, as we know, has been front and centre for many years, in pretty much all of the reports that we’ve seen.”So we’ve asked these agencies to go through our policies and procedures and make sure that the language in there is not going to be putting us back into a pattern of that sort of systemic racism or potential for that.”Fleury said those steps are being taken to avoid setting Thunder Bay police officers up for failure “because we put them out there with a policy that the community [doesn’t] agree with.””We’re really working hard on that,” Fleury said. “We go throughout this community, listen to everything that’s going on and try to incorporate, and we’re going to be incorporating their ideas.”Some of the marginalized communities, they’re very strong in their opinions, and we have to listen to that and come up with ways to make sure that they’re being represented.”Ex-chief confident she’ll ‘prevail,’ lawyer saysIn a statement after the OPP charges were announced on Friday, Hauth’s lawyer, Scott Hutchinson, said the decision to lay charges was “both disappointing and regrettable.” “Chief Hauth is confident that the people of Thunder Bay will not rush to any judgment and will respect the presumption of innocence. She looks forward to her trial where she will present her defence. She is confident she will prevail,” Hutchinson said.Hauth has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court in Thunder Bay on May 7, the OPP said on Friday, and its investigation remains ongoing.Thunder Bay’s current police chief, Darcy Fleury, shown in a file photo, told the news conference the charges against Hauth ‘reinforce … that a chief of police needs to be honest and accountable.’ (Sarah Law/CBC)Last week, the OPP said Thunder Bay police lawyer Holly Walbourne faces obstruction and breach of trust offences, and Staff Sgt. Michael Dimini was charged in December with assault, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.Both Fleury and Machado also issued statements on Friday. Fleury said the force welcomed the investigation and has co-operated fully with OPP. “It is another step toward resolution of this matter and our ability to wholly move forward as a police service,” Fleury said. “It is my hope that community members will not allow the results of this investigation to overshadow the ongoing dedication and quality service provided by our TBPS.”As the justice process is carried out, we will continue on our path forward, learning from the past in order to make the most of our future.” The statement from the oversight board “thanked the Ontario Provincial Police for its investigation” and said board members “remain seized with our mandate and collective responsibility to ensure the Thunder Bay Police Service is governed effectively so the city can have confidence in its police service. 

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