Peterborough’s acting police chief promises an increased police presence at protests

At police services board meeting, Tim Farquharson also said police will deal with disturbances and excessive noise

Tim Farquharson, acting chief of Peterborough Police Services, addresses a public meeting of the police services board on April 12, 2022. (kawarthaNOW screenshot)
Tim Farquharson, acting chief of Peterborough Police Services, addresses a public meeting of the police services board on April 12, 2022. (kawarthaNOW screenshot)

At a public meeting of the Peterborough police services board on Tuesday night (April 12), acting police chief Tim Farquharson addressed what he called “probably one of the most polarizing, divisive challenges in our community right now” — how police respond to continued protests against COVID-19 public health measures.

Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien, a member of the board who also attended the meeting, had brought the issue forward in response to public complaints about a rally outside of Peterburgers restaurant in downtown Peterborough on Saturday.

Also calling it a challenge that affects “the trust and respect people have for the police and how we’re handling things,” Farquharson noted the police are in the business of protecting the public, no matter who they are.

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“We don’t take sides, that’s not our job,” Farquharson said. “We’ve been accused of supporting the anti-mask group, the freedom convoy, the various groups that come, and that is not the case for us, and it won’t be the case moving forward.”

“We’ll use the tools at our disposal, we’ll adequately staff for any protests that come. Any offences that are criminal or provincial in nature, we are going to deal with. We will be working with the city municipal by-law.”

Farquharson added the police service’s senior team had a “lengthy meeting” on Tuesday with city staff and the city solicitor about “what we can do, what we can’t do, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do.”

“Moving forward, there will be an increased presence of officers in regards to the enforcement piece,” he promised. “We’ll make sure that we’re adequately staffed, that we keep everyone safe, but we expect everyone to follow the laws. And if those are breached, then we will have to deal with that part of it, and we are willing to deal with that.”

Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien and councillor Gary Baldwin, both members of the Peterborough police services board, participating virtually in a public meeting of the board on April 12, 2022. There were also around 25 members of the public who attended the virtual meeting. (kawarthaNOW screenshot)
Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien and councillor Gary Baldwin, both members of the Peterborough police services board, participating virtually in a public meeting of the board on April 12, 2022. There were also around 25 members of the public who attended the virtual meeting. (kawarthaNOW screenshot)

Indirectly referring to the rally on Saturday at Peterburgers, Farquharson said police are getting “a lot of calls from the public that don’t feel safe and want us to do more, and that’s what basically our weekend as a senior team was spent working on.”

“Our constituents and stakeholders are concerned, don’t feel safe, as well as council who are getting the calls from constituents asking questions,” he said. “And it’s part of our job to educate on what we can and can’t do.”

In response to Farquharson remarks, Therrien said city council and the police board supports people’s right to freedom of assembly and to protest “even though mandates have been lifted so I know a lot of people in the community are confused as to what is being protested exactly.”

“But the balance of that is what we do when the protests, or what’s going on, are having a detrimental impact on the residents,” she said. “Of not just that immediate community, but I get emails and calls — not just as a member of council, but I know at the police service we hear about this too — from people who were thinking about coming into town for the day but are staying away. So it’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for business, and community members are feeling unsafe,”

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“Everybody knows I’m fine with f-bombs and all those types of things, but the line (is) drawn at comments that are harassing people in the community, any kind of slur, any kind of hateful comments, that is unacceptable,” Therrien added.

She asked Farquharson how police can address that if it happens to people, “because I have heard numerous instances of that.”

“One of the things we talk about in regards to the yelling and the disturbances, and the slurs, that would be dealt through cause a disturbance,” Farquharson replied. “Now that’s a summary conviction offence, and officers have to basically find (people committing (the offence) … saying that, that doesn’t mean you can’t do further investigation through video, through film, and somebody could be charged at a later date.”

“That won’t be tolerated. Now saying that, when we had some of the (protests) at Confederation Park, and we had 30 officers and a 1,000 (or) 1,500 people, we couldn’t see everything. As you know, we did do follow-up investigations later for criminal activity and provincial offences, and we did our best to lay those charges at a later date. Sometimes it’s safer, to be frank, with officer safety. That’s what the lead inspector is there for, to control that, decide when it’s best to do things, not just for the safety of officers also the safety of the people. There are people that lawfully protest.”

“There’s nothing that is going to permit people to be screaming,” he said. “The other thing that we found about megaphones, stereos, decibel levels, there’s been complaints about that. People are upset. We have laid our three summonses in the past, which means an automatic court date, a heavier fine, but that doesn’t stop it at the time.”

“We are speaking to the Crown. Does it raise to the level of mischief, which is a criminal code offence: interfering in the lawful use and enjoyment of people’s property? And that’s something we are working with the Crown (on), because that’s an arrestable offence. If you’ve done those other things — the warning, the part one, the part three summons — can it escalate to mischief? So we’re waiting for a call back, we’re working with the Crown on that. There are things we are doing that we’ve explained to the city.”

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Farquharson also referred to the issue of excessive noise caused by honking vehicles.

“We do have certain vehicles that are driving around in circles blaring on their horn. Is there an offence for that? Yes, there is: unnecessary noise … it’s a provincial offence, so we will be enforcing that. Obviously, we’re using our discretion. There’s people that say they’re honking because a child ran in front of their car.”

Farquharson said the police will be dealing with “people who are going around the block consistently blaring their horn,” but didn’t provide details about how.

“Some of these noises are going on for hours at a time, and we are getting a complaints about that. So we’ll address that as well, and other things that I don’t want to get into at this time for obvious reasons.”

Therrien pointed out there is a “level of frustration in the community when people are feeling too intimidated to come to our downtown, to come to these neighbourhoods.”

“I’m just making it public that the police board and myself, we hear the concerns and certainly empathize with them. Of course there’s a right to peaceful protest, that’s fair, but again, when you’re impeding other people’s rights, that’s problematic.”