Just hours after Sylvie Hauth announced she would be retiring next year as Thunder Bay police chief, Ontario’s civilian police watchdog agency announced Thursday that it would hold a hearing into allegations of misconduct against him.
Hauth was charged with three counts of misconduct under the Ontario Police Services Act:
- That she failed to take appropriate action to respond to the allegations against Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes.
- That she provided misinformation about this investigation to the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
- That she failed to take appropriate action to address allegations of wrongdoing against other members of the Thunder Bay Police.
The Ontario Civilian Commission on Police (OCPC) has been investigating the charges since February. They have not been tested or proven, and no date has been announced for the disciplinary hearing.
On Thursday morning, Hauth announced in a statement to the media that she would retire on June 14, 2023.
The police chief said she informed the city’s police services board of her impending retirement, which would come after 30 years with the police.
“I hope my one-year notice will allow enough time for the board to initiate a recruitment and succession planning process for my replacement,” his statement read. “I remain committed to my role as chef and will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition with the new chef in 2023.
“As Chief Constable, I have been dedicated to driving organizational change within our service in a collaborative, consistent and transparent manner. I can say with confidence that the Thunder Bay Police Service will continue to evolve because of the people who remain focused on serving and protecting all members of this great community.”
A police spokesperson said Thursday that Hauth is not doing interviews at this time because the announcement of his retirement is on the agenda for next week’s police services board meeting.
Bill Mauro, Thunder Bay mayor and member of the police commission, said Thursday that Hauth’s replacement process will be discussed at the meeting.
Mauro also noted that he doesn’t have a vote, as the board is currently overseen by a director.
“On a process like this, I’m not sure I need a vote, but certainly I think it’s never too early to start the process. And I don’t mind saying which I really hope … this serious consideration is inclined to go out of service to find a full-time replacement.”
Hauth was hired as a full-time chef at the end of 2018 after serving two acting stints. Previously, she had spent 25 years in the police department, starting as a front desk cadet and rising to the rank of deputy chief.
Colin Woods, president of the city’s police union, said the past few years have been difficult for association members.
“The relationship between the association and the chief and some of his senior staff, some of the senior management, it’s a fractured relationship,” Woods told CBC News on Thursday.
Regarding the hiring of Hauth’s replacement, Woods also said he would like to see the board “do their due diligence and not just pick the next person they think is in line with our service.”
Woods said he’s not opposed to an inside hire, but would also like to see the board “take a careful look outside of our department” when selecting the next police chief.
“I think maybe a new look, a new set of ears, somebody unrelated, somebody…unrelated to the service, can come in and put their own mark on this service,” Wood said. “Form it and shape it as they wish.
“Hopefully we’ll just have a leader who wants to work with the association, who wants to have a positive working environment.”
Woods said the association will be monitoring the OCPC process “very closely” as it moves forward.
Intense year of pressure
The Thunder Bay Police Service as a whole has been under scrutiny and pressure from multiple directions for months.
Current and former employees have filed human rights complaints against police officers. Two of the three police oversight bodies in Ontario as well as the Ontario Provincial Police have launched investigations into allegations of criminal misconduct against members of the force, including its leaders.
In March, a confidential report was leaked to the media, including CBC News, detailing serious concerns about TBPS investigations into sudden deaths of almost exclusively Indigenous people, and a recommendation was issued to reinvestigate 14 Indigenous deaths. , with the possibility of others coming.
First Nations leaders in northern Ontario then issued calls for the service to be disbanded and replaced with oversight by the Ontario Provincial Police.
WATCH | First Nations leaders in northwestern Ontario are calling for the dismantling of TBPS and oversight by the Ontario Provincial Police:
In April, the OCPC appointed an administrator to oversee the Thunder Bay Police Oversight Board, saying it believed “there is an emergency in the [Thunder Bay] board oversight. Shortly after this decision, the majority of the members of the supervisory board resigned.
Last week, lawyers presented closing arguments at hearings under the Police Services Act against two officers charged with negligence of duty and dishonorable conduct in the course of their work investigating the death in 2015 of Stacy DeBungee of Rainy River First Nation, whose body was found in the McIntyre River. This investigation took place long before Hauth became chief.
The case provided the impetus for a two-year investigation by retired Senator Murray Sinclair that uncovered systemic racism within the TBPS. Hauth’s tenure began about a month before the publication of this report and a parallel OCPC report.
Hauth asked residents to support the municipal police
In a March interview with CBC News, Hauth asked residents to continue supporting the police force despite these ongoing issues with the service.
“I have said publicly that I will cooperate 100% with all investigations that are currently underway,” she said at the time. “You must follow due process. And for me and everyone in my service, public safety is paramount. We are here. We have a job to do. There are a lot of issues in our community that we are dealing with, including we take care.
“It is our role, to ensure public safety, community work, security and well-being. There are challenges and challenges will continue. We do not lose sight of the role we play and we let’s do it to the best of our abilities.”
She also said in March that the police force had evolved since those reports were published and that the service remained dedicated to the community.
“I hope this speaks for itself in terms of our commitment to service, in terms of our dedication to the job and our commitment not just to the work we do, but to our community.”