Amid human rights complaints, investigations and external oversight, the police service and its oversight board in Thunder Bay, Ont., will also be looking for a new chief.
Sylvie Hauth announced Thursday morning in a statement to media that she’ll retire June 14, 2023.
The police chief said she has informed the city’s police services board of her impending retirement, which would come after 30 years in the police service.
“I am hopeful that my one-year notice will provide adequate time for the board to initiate a recruitment and succession planning process for my replacement,” her statement says. “I remain committed to my role as chief and will do everything I can to ensure a proper transition takes place with the newly appointed chief in 2023.
“In my capacity as chief of police, I have dedicated myself to organizational change within our service, in a collaborative, consistent and transparent way. I can say with confidence that the Thunder Bay Police Service will continue to evolve thanks to the people who remain focused on serving and protecting all members of this great community.”
Hauth was hired as full-time chief in late 2018 after serving two interim stints in the role. She had spent 25 years with the police service, beginning as a front desk cadet and rising to the rank of deputy chief.
Intense year of pressure
The Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) has been under intense scrutiny and pressure from multiple directions for months.
Current and former employees have filed human rights complaints against police brass. Two of three police oversight agencies in Ontario plus Ontario Provincial Police have launched investigations into allegations of criminal misconduct against members of the force, including its leadership.
In March, a confidential report was leaked to media organizations, including CBC News, detailing serious concerns with TBPS investigations into the sudden deaths of almost exclusively Indigenous people, and a recommendation was issued to reinvestigate 14 deaths of Indigenous people, with the possibility of more to come.
First Nations leaders in northern Ontario then led calls for the service to be disbanded and replaced with OPP oversight.
WATCH | First Nations leaders in northwestern Ontario call for TBPS disbandment, OPP oversight:
In April, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) appointed an administrator to oversee the Thunder Bay police oversight board, saying it believes “an emergency exists in the [Thunder Bay] board oversight.” Shortly after that decision, a majority of the oversight board resigned.
Last week, lawyers made closing arguments in Police Services Act hearings against two officers charged with neglect of duty and discreditable conduct over their work investigating the 2015 death of Stacy DeBungee from Rainy River First Nation, whose body was found in the McIntyre River. That investigation took place well before Hauth became chief.
The case served as the impetus for a two-year investigation led by retired senator Murray Sinclair that found systemic racism in the TBPS. Hauth’s term began about a month before the release of that report and a parallel OCPC report .
Hauth asked residents to back city police
In a March interview with CBC News, Hauth asked residents to continue to back the police force despite these ongoing issues with the service.
“I have said publicly that I will co-operate 100 per cent fully with all the investigations that are currently underway,” she said at the time. “You need to let due process take place. And for me and all the members of my service, public safety is paramount. We are here. We have a job to do. There are a lot of issues in our community that we address, that we take care of.
“That is our role, to ensure public safety, community work, safety and well-being. There are challenges and challenges will continue ahead. We don’t lose sight of the role that we play and we do that to the best of our abilities.”
She also said in March that the police force has evolved since those reports came out and the service remained dedicated to the community.
“I’m hoping that speaks to itself in terms of our commitment as a service, in terms of our dedication to the work and our commitment not only to the work that we do, but to our community.”