Ewart Walters: Failed attack on Police chief Sloly

Ewart Walters

Walters: Ottawa police union boss’s attack on Chief Sloly fails the credibility test

by Ewart Walters

Sep 18, 2020  

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof, left, has accused Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly of failing as a leader. (Credit: Tony Caldwell/Julie Oliver, Postmedia)
Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof, left, has accused Ottawa police chief Peter Sloly of failing as a leader. (Credit: Tony Caldwell/Julie Oliver, Postmedia) PHOTO BY TONY CALDWELL/JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

The credibility of Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof has been placed under the public microscope by Skof himself. His posting of a scathing attack on Police Chief Peter Sloly and his leadership of the Ottawa police has backfired. It is Skof’s “leadership” that is tarnished. And not only by this attack.

Skof’s attack brings into question his leadership of the police association, as well as its future existence because of the growing call to defund or disband police, and because police salaries consume 86 per cent of the police budget. If defunding does happen, it will reduce not only the inflated police salaries but their jobs as well.We need Ottawa to step up 

Skof waged a two-and-a-half-year campaign on retired chief Charles Bordeleau. Now he seems to be starting one against Sloly. It is a campaign the citizens of Ottawa will not let him win, for Ottawans are in solidarity with the plans of the Police Services Board and the chief to make this city a better place to live in.

The association has a history of attacking its chiefs; it attacked Brian Ford and Vern White too. Beyond that, this is the same association that filed a spurious libel suit against citizen Ralph Kirkland, a Black community leader, because he answered in the affirmative a reporter’s question as to whether his arrest on a false licence plate matter had anything to do with racism.

Skof’s timing is bad. This is the year when the world recoiled in horror from the eight- minute-45-second video of George Floyd’s killing by police. This is the year we saw the wanton firing of seven police bullets into the back of Jacob Blake. Skof chooses to park himself in the denial of systemic racism in the force rather than join with his chief and others who are trying to eliminate it. Nor did he help himself in a CBC interview when he was unable to explain why the Ottawa police is the only institution where systemic racism does not exist, as he continues to claim.

Skof attacks the chief because Sloly, in a very balanced statement, apologized for the action of one of his officers who stopped a Black man driving an Audi motor car for a licence plate infraction that turned out to be false. The officer eventually apologized for his error. “During the interaction, the officer realized he made a mistake — he owned it and fully apologized for it,” an OPS statement reads.

But when the chief apologizes, Skof says he is not a leader.

Black men driving high-end luxury cars have long been targets of police, as Chad Aiken, driving his mother’s white Mercedes Benz, knows only too well. The officer who stopped Aiken was travelling in the opposite direction and had obviously not seen the rear licence plate before he decided to turn around and make the stop. Yet Aiken got charged with a burnt-out rear licence plate bulb when that car had not one but two bulbs illuminating the licence plate. This looked very much like he was stopped because he fit the profile of a young Black man driving an expensive car.

This is the same Matt Skof who was banned by then-chief Bordeleau from entering the Elgin Street police headquarters, a ban that was graciously lifted in an olive branch act by Chief Sloly. This is the same Matt Skof who is awaiting trial on criminal charges of breach of trust and obstruction of justice. And he dares charge Sloly with a failure of leadership?

Time to look at the man in the mirror, Matt.

This article was initially published in the Ottawa Citizen.

Ewart Walters, CD, MJ, is an author, former diplomat and retired editor whose entry to journalism was at Public Opinion in 1962.

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