In focus

Should the Chief of Police be bilingual?

In July 2006, City of Ottawa Chief of Police Vince Bevan, who has held the position for more than five years, announces his retirement. A replacement must be found, and the hiring process involves a heated debate about whether or not the future Chief should be able to speak in both official languages. It should be noted that the Ottawa Police Services Board is not subject to the City of Ottawa’s 2001 bilingualism policy, and that, in 2006, it does not even have a language policy.

In the ensuing controversy, the Board chooses to apply the City of Ottawa bilingualism policy in the process of hiring its future chief. This policy requires that all positions at levels 1 to 3, which would include a Chief of Police, be bilingual. It also follows the City’s policy of allowing exceptions for internal candidates who, up to December 31, 2009, can be promoted without meeting the language requirements set out in the policy.

The successful candidate, Vernon White, former head Durham Regional Police Service, is bilingual. Francophone associations in the region are delighted. Following this more or less happy episode in Ottawa’s history, the Police Services Board puts in place an official languages ​​policy in January 2009. It makes explicit reference to the mandatory bilingualism of the Chief of Police.