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LETTER: Sault's police chief 'an extraordinary leader'

'Systemic mistakes happen in any organization. When they do, we need a chief who swiftly and effectively identifies problems and decisively takes action to resolve them'
Chief Hugh Stevenson during a press conference. File photo.

A letter to the editor recently published in The Sault Star questioned whether Police Chief Hugh Stevenson should resign over his his force's handling of last October's mass shooting in the city. Last week, at a regular meeting of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services Board, SooToday asked Stevenson to comment on the letterJeff Broadbent, a local lawyer, sent SooToday the following letter in response to the coverage. Broadbent has previously written about our city's desperate need for a supervised drug consumption site.

The recent letter to the Editor of The Sault Star, noted also in the recent SooToday article, calling for the resignation of Sault Ste. Marie’s Chief of Police, Hugh Stevenson, warrants a response. While we all share the author’s distress and deep grief over the tragic incident of intimate partner violence in our community, calling for Chief Stevenson’s resignation is misguided and uninformed. Indeed, losing Chief Stevenson would be a terrible loss for our community, and surely the people of Ontario. 

Certainly, as a lawyer of over 30 years’ service in this community and volunteering or otherwise active in a number of community initiatives over those decades relating to the well-being of our community, including agencies supporting and protecting victims of intimate partner violence, it is my experience that Chief Stevenson is an extraordinary leader and an exceptional resource to our community.

To be sure, Chief Stevenson is by far the most dynamic, progressive, proactive, decisive, tireless, intelligent, and confident chief our service has had in thirty years.  As a leader, he has earned respect among the women and men of the service that protect our community, and certainly has earned respect far and wide outside of the local police service. I say “earned” deliberately, because Chief Stevenson has led the service tirelessly with clarity and competence that is unparalleled in the last thirty years. His proactive and dynamic initiatives have or will greatly enhance the effectiveness of the service, including but not limited to license plate reading technology, body cameras and digital evidence management, to name a few. These instruments increase the effectiveness of policing and serve to fortify the ability of our police to address all threats to community and individual safety, including intimate partner violence. The implementation of these tools was initiated by Chief Stevenson.

Moreover, in addition to a significant number of agencies locally (too many to name here) with which Chief Stevenson participates such as the Algoma Leadership Table, tasked with developing a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, he is also very much involved with other key organizations. Chief Stevenson serves on the Ontario Police Technology Information Cooperative (OPTIC), which includes 8,287 officers: 2,894 from 43 municipal Ontario, Canada police agencies and 5,393 from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), all sharing a single Niche RMS installation. OPTIC is the largest data-sharing cooperative in North America. He is active with the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, to name but a few. 

Indeed, Chief Stevenson has earned tremendous respect provincially and I would venture nationally with his important involvement with these agencies owing to his effective leadership. This is beneficial to our community as Chief Stevenson owing to his gruelling schedule and tireless work with these agencies helps advance police service to the people of Ontario and Sault Ste. Marie. These agencies provide important leadership and advocacy for the needs of communities, including ours, across the province and indeed country. To illustrate, CACP has been an important leader in addressing the national addiction crisis, a crisis which we know all too well in our community. This organization’s leadership and advocacy in addiction guides and influences our legislatures to enact legislation and regulations tailored to confront this national health crisis. Included in their three-point plan is Safe Consumption clinics which would greatly enhance community well-being. Chief Stevenson has been a strong advocate of effective tools such as this, among others, and has garnered tremendous respect of his peers, subordinates, and professionals in other branches of justice.

Make no mistake, the interrelationship between intimate partner violence, addiction, and mental health is undeniable. Our community needs, as indeed all communities need, intelligent and proactive leadership as that of Chief Stevenson. His reputation is truly remarkable and emblematic of his character. With a PhD from University of Toronto, he brings insights, knowledge, and intelligence to our police service in ways that no other chiefs in this community have. 

Unquestionably, intimate partner violence, addiction and mental illness have been challenges for community and individual safety and well-being for as long as I can remember. The opioid crisis of the last decade has only exacerbated this. Bail reform, lack of resources including shortage of judges and a “catch and release” system, for which legislatures have ownership over, are all challenges to our nation, adversely affecting Sault Ste. Marie. Chief Stevenson has demonstrated tremendous leadership on all fronts.

Certainly, personal, and systemic mistakes happen in any organization. When they do, we need a chief who swiftly and effectively identifies problems and decisively takes action to resolve them. We have that in Chief Stevenson. Losing Chief Stevenson would jeopardize the significant advancement that our police service has experienced under his effective leadership.

Jeff Broadbent
Sault Ste. Marie