After five years at the helm of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, where he regularly found himself in the crosshairs of his critics, director Ian Scott will be moving on in six months, his office confirmed Wednesday.
Created in 1990 after a slew of contentious police shootings, the provincial police watchdog oversees roughly 28,000 police officers and has frequently stirred up controversy.
Police have often accused the SIU of being biased against them, while police foes have just as frequently said exactly the opposite.
Either way, the organization remains one of the few civilian-staffed agencies in North America to investigate incidents where police-civilian interactions result in death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault, and it has become increasingly active in recent years.
Since its inception, the Mississauga-based SIU has laid criminal charges against about 126 officers, representing less than 3 per cent of the cases it has examined.
But its caseload is rising. Last year, it undertook a record 382 investigations.
Mr. Scott’s mandate runs until October. He declined an interview request but said he may speak up closer to the end of his term.
Called to the bar in 1983 after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in London two years earlier, Mr. Scott was a Crown counsel with the Ministry of the Attorney General before being named SIU director in 2008. Before that, he worked in the private sector as a barrister and solicitor.
He is also the author of numerous papers and publications, many of them dealing with the topic of overseeing Canadian police and police procedures.
In recent remarks to Western University’s Alumni Gazette, Mr. Scott said his role was to “develop public confidence in the civilian oversight of the police, I’m not here to be buddy-buddy with the police.”
One of his earliest spells in the spotlight came as a prosecutor in 1997, with the conviction of a former Ontario Provincial Police officer in the shooting death of native activist Dudley George during the tense land dispute at Ipperwash Provincial Park.
His five years as director of the SIU mark the longest period of time anyone has held the position.
“Frankly, you don’t make a lot of friends here,” he told the Alumni Gazette.
As recently as February, Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack called on Mr. Scott to step down, saying the SIU needed a provincial-government investigation "to restore public confidence in the leadership."
Mr. Scott seemed unperturbed.
“Mr. McCormack is entitled to his opinion about my leadership of the unit,” he responded.
“Frankly, I would have been more surprised if he issued a news release saying he was happy with the way the unit is currently functioning.”