The Winnipeg Police Board has complained to the city’s integrity commissioner about what it considers abusive comments made against it by Coun. Sherri Rollins.
Integrity commissioner Sherri Walsh, in an email to Rollins, who represents Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, said the complaint was about comments she made to the March 4 board meeting. Rollins was at the board to ask about the handling of the so-called freedom convoy at the legislature by Winnipeg police.
The board complained it felt Rollins had made a number of "unfair comments on your part about the work of the board, the focus of the complaint is on the fact that your comments equated the work of the board with that of the Thunder Bay Police Board," said Walsh.
Walsh noted Rollins referenced a 2018 report issued by then-senator Murray Sinclair, which recommended the Thunder Bay Police Board be temporarily replaced with an administrator because it was guilty of wilful blindness to issues of systemic racism and had "demonstrably shown that it could not carry out its statutory responsibilities".
"The complaint is that (Rollins’) comments, in equating this board with the Thunder Bay board, in the context of Senator Sinclair’s report, amounted to abuse and harassment within the meaning of the Code of Conduct," Walsh said.
The commissioner said the police board hopes the complaint can be resolved on an informal basis through her office "with the goal being to further constructive dialogue between you and the board."
As the councillor who represents citizens and businesses downtown, Rollins said her main objective at the meeting was to ask questions about police handling of the convoy and push the board to look into the incident further.
"That’s my job as a local councillor," she said on Wednesday. "I’m elected to represent folks and this is the only police oversight board we have."
At the time, Rollins was reported to have suggested board members should either ask tough questions over the police response to the protest or resign.
Rollins said she was disappointed at the time the board decided not to look further into police handling of the convoy protest.
"I remain disappointed," she said. "Then, a few weeks later, instead of getting action that day, I get a commissioner complaint saying that it was harassing."
Coun. Markus Chambers, who chairs the board, said while he didn’t put in the complaint, he supports it.
"(Rollins’ comments) did cross the line," Chambers said. "I was disappointed by her comments. We are doing our due diligence.
"I think she needs to be held accountable."
“(Rollins’ comments) did cross the line... I was disappointed by her comments. We are doing our due diligence. I think she needs to be held accountable.” – Coun. Markus Chambers
Chambers said he would leave it up to the integrity commissioner to come up with "a fair and equitable resolution to this.
"She has to realize her words have meaning. She is asserting they were not doing their job."
Frank Cormier, head of the University of Manitoba’s department of sociology and criminology, said the problem may be people don’t understand the role of the police board.
"Councillor Rollins might be getting into this area, but the board can’t instruct police to do something differently. That’s not what their mandate is," Cormier said.
"The board comes up with the five-year strategic plan of the priorities and the broad objectives of the force… they issue strategic level guidance for police."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.