North Bay police chief calls for reform of bail system after murder of OPP officer
North Bay police chief Scott Tod is supporting other Canadian police leaders in urging the federal government to take a hard look at bail reform.
Tod offered his ideas Tuesday morning during the police services board meeting. He is joining police leaders and the 13 premiers of the provinces and territories strongly urging the federal government to look at ways to fix a “broken” bail system.
“The unfortunate part is it often takes something drastic in nature for action to occur,” said Tod.
He is referring to the Dec. 27 murder of young OPP Const. Greg Pierzchala, allegedly at the hands of Randall McKenzie, 25, and Brandi Crystal Lyn Stewart-Sperry, 30.
Both face first-degree murder charges.
McKenzie was previously released on bail on a number of conditions, including remaining in his home and not possessing any firearms.
OPP said Pierzchala was shot while he was responding to a call for a vehicle in a ditch west of Hagersville.
He was “ambushed,” police said, and had no chance to defend himself. The 28-year-old police officer later died in hospital.
There are a few ideas on Tod’s mind when it comes to bail reform. Hiring more officers to search 24/7 for dangerous offenders and bail violators would be a step forward, he said, while also creating a new system to transport all criminals arrested on a warrant to court.
“This discussion is about dangerous or violent offenders who are wanted on warrants or dangerous people who continue to present a danger in our community,” Tod said.
“The new discussion is talking about how … we strengthen bail reform to prevent dangerous people from being released.”
Western University criminology professor Michael Arntfield agrees with Tod that having more funding for officers to perform routine bail checks would help.
“In many cases, you would have officers pulled from the street to go to repeat bail violators to check that they are in their residence for their curfew or are in where they claim they are living,” he said.
“None of this is done by the courts pre-emptively.”
Arntfield is cautiously optimistic changes will come to the current system.
“Eligibility for bail has long been a contentious issue among police,” he told CTV News.
“I was a police officer for many years. Many officers take it personally when an accused is released given the circumstances.”
Arntfield said that the system in place has not been functional for decades.
While reflecting on the four RCMP officers shot and killed in Mayerthorpe, Alta., and the officers shot and killed in Moncton, N.B., Tod supports forming a new provincial task force aimed at finding ways to fix the cracks deep within the system.
“Are we providing the best possible information to the Crown attorneys and the prosecutors, and to the courts about the threats surrounding the individual? Is there a better way in which we can do it?” Arntfield asked.
“We need to incarcerate dangerous offenders and keep them incarcerated until the courts are able to determine innocence or guilt of their crimes."
The two suspects are currently awaiting their bail hearing next month.
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