Loss of trust: Ottawa Police survey reveals

Ottawa Police Service consultation reveals loss of trust in police, shifting of community priorities

The OPS intends to use the results of the consultations, which included five surveys, community forums, conversations and email feedback, to inform its budget proposal for 2022.

Author of the article:Matthew Lapierre

Oct 21, 2021  • 

A survey posted online through September drew 3,200 complete responses for the Ottawa Police Service consultation process.
A survey posted online through September drew 3,200 complete responses for the Ottawa Police Service consultation process. PHOTO BY ASHLEY FRASER /Postmedia

An extensive consulting effort by the Ottawa Police Service has found that significantly fewer Ottawans trust police and most want the institution to shift its priorities, even if the majority of those consulted favoured maintaining or increasing the service’s funding.

The OPS intends to use the results of the consultations, which included five surveys, community forums, conversations and email feedback, to inform its budget proposal for 2022.

“We have heard the calls for change, which includes the need to work more effectively with our community partners on integrated and/or alternative responses to social issues, especially when it comes to mental health and addictions calls,” Chief Peter Sloly said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“Moving forward, our 2022 Draft Budget will address these important community and member issues.”

Those issues deemed most important to the public have shifted, according to results of an OPS survey. The survey was posted online through September and drew 3,200 complete responses. It formed the largest single part of the OPS consultations.

The survey responses revealed that more Ottawans were concerned about mental health care and addiction than any other issue, a shift from previous surveys, the OPS noted. Guns and gangs, violence against women and distracted driving were also top priorities, as they had been in past years.

More than half of those who responded to that same survey, 73 per cent, said they supported shifting some responsibility from the police to community services for responding to social issues. Those who argue in favour of defunding the police or freezing the OPS budget have said many police activities could be better dealt with by other groups.

But, despite the shift in priorities, most of those responding to the survey did not support reducing the police budget. Of the respondents, 26 per cent said they supported reducing the service’s budget, while a slim majority of 51 per cent said they wanted to increase the budget and the remainder wanted it frozen at 2021 levels or expressed no opinion on the issue.

The consultations also revealed an erosion of trust in the Ottawa Police Service. Since 2018, the number of Ottawans who distrust police has grown 19 per cent.

Another element of the consultations, a phone survey conducted by Advanis, found that the public perception of police agencies across Canada had declined and the OPS was no exception. Nearly one in 10 respondents who lived in areas policed by OPS reported disagreeing with statements like “I generally support how the police usually act” and “the police treat people with respect.”

Though the consultations showed a majority of people expressing their support for an OPS budget increase, police also earned criticism for failing to draw proportionate responses from some racialized communities.

Robin Browne, co-lead of the 613-819 Black Hub, said the results of the consultations were framed in such a way as to earn the OPS a budget increase from the police services board. He added that the “majority” cited in the surveys were not representative of those who most often had negative interactions with police.

“It’s not the majority of people that OPS is disproportionately harming and killing: Black and Indigenous people. It’s not the majority that are being disproportionately jailed by the OPS: Black and Indigenous people,” he said. “They’re not doing the hard work — and it is hard work — to effectively survey the people who are most impacted.”

Despite OPS’s campaign to publicize the online survey, which was a key part of the consultation process, in the end it captured the opinions of a group of Ottawans who were not representative of the broader population. Measured against Statistics Canada numbers, many demographics were underrepresented among survey respondents, including respondents identifying as Black, Middle Eastern, South Asian, East Asian or Indigenous.

The survey also drew a disproportionate number of suburban and wealthy respondents. The poorest Ottawans were least represented, with those living with household incomes of $60,000 or less annually making up just 14 per cent of survey respondents compared to 33 per cent of the total population.

Another limitation of the online survey noted by the OPS: It was impossible to control access to ensure that survey participants resided in Ottawa, nor was it possible to prevent people from filling out the survey more than once.

Sometimes the same IP addresses were used to fill out the survey twice or more. “One was used 10 times, one 15 times and another 42 times,” the report on survey results noted. “In a sample of over 4,400, these would have a negligible impact on results.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen

**********************************************************

Thursday, October 21, 2021      3:50pm 

(Ottawa) — Today, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) issued its 2022 Budget Consultation Report as part of the October 25th meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB). As directed by the Board, the report details the results of a comprehensive series of surveys, consultations, reviews and studies completed to support the development of the 2022 Draft Budget.

A full copy of the Report, as well as supporting documents, is available online at ottawapolice.ca/2022Budget.

“We want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out a survey or send their comments in, speak to our members or attend a focus group,” said Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly. “The information in this report has been gathered to assist us all in determining the priorities for the 2022 Draft Budget, how our service needs to change and the future direction of policing in Ottawa.”

Results

As a result of these extensive community consultations, the OPS interprets the following key points, which are generally consistent with past community consultations: 

  • Police services matter to Ottawa residents and residents want improvements. The vast majority of respondents in various consultations provide ways in which the police need to improve, particularly in terms of building partnership and engagement with diverse, marginalized, and racialized communities.  
  • 51% of respondents favour increasing the OPS budget. When asked about their preference between increasing, decreasing and maintaining the OPS budget at the current level: 51% preferred to increase the budget, 16% to maintain it, and 26% to decrease it.  
  • Residents want a new approach for response to social issues, particularly mental illness and addiction, in order to have better outcomes and responses. The desired role for OPS in these responses varies significantly, but it is clear that a new approach is needed.  
  • There are pronounced community safety issues, top of which are Mental health and addictions, road and pedestrian safety, violence against women, and gun/gang/drug related criminal violence.  
  • Public trust has been eroded. Distrust of OPS has gone up by 19% since 2018.  Nonetheless, the majority of respondents to various consultations want to see the police improve so as to earn community trust.  This degradation of trust measurements continues to be a major concern for all police services and must be addressed. 
  • On-going investment is needed in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) efforts. Changes to funding brought about through this Budget should not undermine efforts to increase diversity within the Service, address racism, and improve training. 

“We continue to review the results of this consultation. We have heard the calls for change which includes the need to work more effectively with our community partners on integrated and/or alternative responses to social issues, especially when it comes to mental health and addictions calls,” said Chief Sloly. “Moving forward, our 2022 Draft Budget will address these important community and member issues, ensure ongoing investments in equity, diversity and inclusion while addressing the community safety and well-being needs of a growing city.”

The 2022 Budget consultation period was the most extensive public feedback collection process in OPS history. It included a public survey, polling data, interviews and focus groups, an OPS member survey, studies of social media sentiment and a specific reach out to racialized, indigenous and diverse communities. 

The consultations yielded qualitative and quantitative feedback from OPS stakeholders, residents, community groups, City Councillors, and OPS members. Surveys were distributed in nine languages and in accessible formats. The results comprise data provided from five surveys with 8,000 respondents, community forums, small group discussions, one-on-one conversations, delegations, and written feedback.

The report will be discussed at a meeting of the Board on Monday October 25th

************************************************************

BACKGROUNDER: OPS/OPSB Public and Stakeholder Opinion Survey

The most comprehensive consultation is the OPS/OPSB-led Public and Stakeholder Opinion Survey, which gathered quantitative and qualitative input from over 4,400 participants in September 2021. The respondent sample was not only diverse in demographics, but also in points of view. 

  • Perceptions of community and personal safety are divided.  Almost half (47%) of respondents indicated that their perceptions of community safety for the City of Ottawa have decreased in the past two years, while the same percentage (47%) thought safety in their own community/neighbourhood had remained the same over this period. 
  • More participants are satisfied than dissatisfied with personal safety. Just over half of respondents (52%) indicated they are satisfied/very satisfied with their personal safety from crime, while 20% were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied. 
  • Overdoses, mental health, violent crimes, and distracted driving top crime/disorder concerns. When asked to rate their level of concern with a range of crimes and disorder issues for the City of Ottawa overall, the following had the highest ratings of extremely/very concerned:
    • overdoses/addictions/mental health care (66%)
    • gun violence/gang violence/drug violence (63%)
    • violence against women (60%) and sexual assault (55%)
    • distracted driving (56% extremely/very concerned) 
  • Residents are more satisfied than dissatisfied with OPS quality of service, though satisfaction has declined since 2018. Response was mixed to the question on quality of service, with 42% indicating they were very satisfied/satisfied, 23% neutral, and 34% dissatisfied/very dissatisfied. This represents a negative shift of 18% in satisfaction since 2018.   
  • Almost three-quarters of respondents trust the OPS, but trust has been eroded. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of trust in OPS: 
    • 42% indicated they had a very high or high level of trust in OPS (down from 55% in 2018)
    • 30% that they had a moderate level of trust (comparable to 33% in 2018)
    • 29% indicated they had little or no trust in OPS (up from 10% in 2018)  
  • An alternative model to mental health response is a top priority. The survey requested input regarding previously-identified priorities. The top shared priorities were:
    • an alternative model to mental health response (over 2.2K supported)
    • community policing (over 1.7K supported)
    • violence against women (over 1.7K supported)
    • youth strategy (over 1.5K supported)
    • traffic safety (over 1.5K supported)
  • Increased focus on crime and police presence are other top priorities. Respondents were asked to provide priorities in open-ended comments. The most frequently mentioned themes were: 
    • increased focus on crime
    • increased number of officers and presence
    • increased public outreach to strengthen relationships and trust
    • increased accountability and transparency 
  • 51% of respondents favour increasing the OPS budget. When asked about their preference between increasing, decreasing and maintaining the OPS budget at the current level: 51% preferred to increase the budget, 16% to maintain it, and 26% to decrease it.  
  • Over two-thirds favour increasing or maintaining services provided by police. Among respondents, 68% of respondents favoured increasing or maintaining services provided by police (while 24% favoured a reduction in services) and 57% reported wanting to see increased investment from the OPS in service delivery and reform (while 12% favoured decreased investment). 
  • Just over half of respondents want an increase in OPS staffing. More than half (53%) preferred increasing the number of OPS officers, 21% preferred decreasing it, 18% preferred maintaining the current level. 
  • Nearly three in four would like a change in roles and responsibilities for OPS. Seventy-three percent of respondents were in favour of shifting some responsibility from OPS to community services, while 22% preferred OPS maintains current roles and responsibilities. 
  • A strong majority of respondents want the City to invest more in social services. Most respondents (70%) want to see increased investment in programs and services addressing social issues by the City. 
  • Negative sentiment highest among some marginalized populations. Demographic analysis of support for reductions in OPS budget and number of officers shows that support is highest among: younger respondents, those identifying as transgender/other gender, non-heterosexual, as well as those of higher educational status, those with lower income, and those in urban areas of the city. Results differ slightly for racialized members.  While trust and satisfaction ratings were lower amongst Indigenous and South Asian respondents, there were no significant differences by race/ethnicity in other findings.  The majority of survey respondents in each race/ethnicity category preferred an increase to the number of officers, an increase to the OPS budget, and to shift some responsibility for response to social issues from OPS to community services.  

Advanis Research

Advanis conducted national public opinion surveys using random sampling methods in 2020 and 2021 on the topic of crime, personal safety, and perceptions of police. Within Ottawa, their sample size was 624 in 2020 and 1,388 in 2021, with demographics generally representative of the City’s population. 

  • Majority report OPS is doing a good job. In 2021, 60% of participants reported that the OPS is doing a good or excellent job. This is equal to the national average, though slightly down from 63% in 2020.  
  • Significant rise in negative perception of OPS performance:
    • ratings of OPS as poor/very poor rose from 10% to 19%
    • perceptions that police treat people with respect decreased from 66% to 58%
    • perceptions that police make decisions based on fact decreased from 58% to 54%
    • only 40% of respondents agreed that police provide the same quality of service to all citizens  
  • Fear of crime has increased. The percentage of Ottawa citizens who reported that they always/almost always worry about crime increased from 12% in 2020 to 17% in 2021. 
  • Negative perceptions about OPS response times have doubled. In answering whether police respond quickly to calls for assistance, 16% disagreed/strongly disagreed in 2021, compared to 8% in 2020.

© 2021 Ottawa Police Service

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *