Police services board chair says Ottawa mayor 'out of touch'

The chair of Ottawa’s police services board says Mayor Jim Watson is ‘out of touch’ with the work being done to fight violent crime in the city.

Coun. Diane Deans says the mayor’s meeting this week, at which he established a ‘leadership table’ to address violent crime and suggested more funding for the city’s police service, was a ‘simplistic’ response to a violent Labour Day weekend in the city that saw two shootings and a stabbing.

“For the mayor to respond to an incident and say we need to form a new committee and we need to throw more money at police is just too simplistic a response to a very complex set of issues,” Deans told CTV News Ottawa on Friday. “I would like to be involved in helping him get up to date on what those issues are.”

Deans, who chairs of Crime Prevention Ottawa along with her police services board role, said she wasn’t invited to the meeting.

“I know that the mayor is more comfortable dealing with members of council that tend to agree with him on all of the issues,” Deans said.

The mayor’s office said in a statement that he meets “frequently and almost daily” with city leaders and officials to address city-wide concerns.

“After the recent rash of violent incidents, the Mayor’s Office has no record of Councillor Deans contacting the Mayor’s Office to seek or propose a meeting,” the statement said. “Mayor Watson is always amenable to dialogue with members of Council who engage with him on their priority concerns or issues.”

In an open letter to the mayor, Deans said she wanted to ‘introduce’ the mayor to the efforts of people working every day toward ‘evidence based, holistic, upstream solutions to community safety and crime prevention.’

An Open Letter to Mayor Watson regarding Community Safety and Well-Being and Crime Prevention in our city. pic.twitter.com/syWC1UHsox

— Diane Deans (@dianedeans) September 9, 2021

“I am shocked and surprised that as the Mayor you are so out of touch with the work that is being done on these fronts and the importance of funding these initiatives,” she wrote.

Deans said groups that work to address the root causes of violent crimes, such as community health agencies and groups that provide mental health services, need adequate, predictable funding.

“Those groups have had to beg the mayor to get funding,” she told CTV News. “If the mayor really wants to be part of the solution, he needs to be the person that loosens the purse strings to get the agencies the money they need to help us create a safer community.

“The strategy can’t just be let’s give police more money or let’s form a new committee.”