Matthew Green criticizes 'non-apology' from Hamilton police board chair Lloyd Ferguson

Coun. Matthew Green isn't satisfied with what he called a "non-apology apology" offered by his council colleague Lloyd Ferguson Tuesday.

Green said Ferguson's statement was less an apology and more a 'testimonial' for his accomplishments

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, said he found a statement from his council colleague, Lloyd Ferguson, lacking. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Coun. Matthew Green isn't satisfied with what he called a "non-apology apology" made by his council colleague Lloyd Ferguson Tuesday for breaching the police board's code of conduct.

Ferguson, the chair of Hamilton's police board, was responding to a rebuke from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which found he breached the code of conduct when he did two local talk radio interviews.

The commission said comments he made in the interview were unfortunate and unfair. Ferguson accepted the ruling and agreed to apologize and rescind the comments 

But Green, who filed the complaint to the commission about Ferguson's comments, said the statement Ferguson issued amounted to a "testimonial" for Ferguson's "passion and commitment to the police force."

We're talking about the fact that [Ferguson] violated the code of conduct and put in jeopardy a pretty important process.- Coun. Matthew Green

"And that's not what we're talking about here," Green said.

"We're talking about the fact that he violated the code of conduct and put in jeopardy a pretty important process – what's happening right now with the [Police Services Act]. He hasn't identified any of that."

At the time of Ferguson's radio interviews, Green, the city's first black councillor, had launched a complaint against the police, contending he was racially profiled by an officer who stopped him in April 2016. That complaint is the subject of an ongoing disciplinary hearing.

In the interviews, Ferguson's comments suggested that the board, which is to remain impartial as it oversees police governance and discipline, was tilted in favour of defending police officers, the OCPC found.

And the OCPC also found that Ferguson misunderstood his and the board's role regarding an ongoing Police Services Act disciplinary proceeding against an officer who was charged after he'd stopped and questioned Green.

Ferguson, who is out of the office this week, did not respond to a request for comment in response to Green's criticism. 

'My passion for policing and public safety'

In his statement, Ferguson touted his years of service on council and as police board chair and said he takes his duties for both "very seriously."

Lloyd Ferguson is a city councillor representing Ancaster who is chair of the Hamilton police services board. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

He said that in two radio appearances last June, "I let my passion for policing and public safety and my utmost respect for the hardworking men and women of Hamilton Police Service, overshadow my duties as a member of the board."

"For this I apologize to Matthew Green and any other people who may be offended by my remarks," the statement continued. "I would like to formally rescind the comments made on the radio show and look forward to returning to the board and resuming my duties as chair."

The OCPC suspended Ferguson for three weeks, which they allowed to count as "time served" since the investigation launched Dec. 18. Ferguson did not miss any board meetings and the suspension coincided with the holidays. He agreed with the ruling, admitted responsibility and expressed remorse, the OCPC said.

Chair and vice-chair election coming next week

Coun. Terry Whitehead, who also serves on the police board, said he saw Ferguson's statement as admitting he'd done wrong.

"I think he's clearly acknowledged that he shouldn't have done it, he made a mistake," Whitehead said. "That's the biggest issue."

But he said he questions the "process" behind the investigation and decision. Green made his complaint in September, but the investigation wasn't launched and board members notified until Dec. 18 – "coincidentally after the last board meeting," Whitehead said.

"I want to know if there was any negotiation through agents or the board that facilitated the timing of us receiving the actual letter," he said.

"Dec. 18 is the first time we became formally aware of it."

The topic will likely be discussed at the next board meeting scheduled for next Thursday, when an election for chair and vice-chair is scheduled. Walt Juchniewicz, who is a civilian member of the board, said he will put his name forward for the chair's position, which would pit him against Ferguson.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca

About the Author

Kelly Bennett

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Kelly Bennett is an award-winning reporter who lives in Hamilton. She grew up in Victoria and covered economics and arts as an investigative reporter in San Diego. She loves digging into great stories, hiking and playing the violin. Drop her a line anytime at kelly.bennett@cbc.ca.

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