Ottawa Police Oversight Board Chair Resigns After Family Connected to ‘Largest Drug Bust’ in Ottawa’s History
Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Gail Beck resigned after Ottawa Police announced new charges in a major drug trafficking bust
Ottawa’s police oversight board announced the sudden resignation of its chair Thursday after one of the chair’s immediate family members was charged in a major police operation targeting organized crime and drug trafficking in Ottawa.
Gail Beck, who was appointed chair of Ottawa’s Police Services Board earlier this year on the recommendation of Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, submitted her resignation after only seven months on the job.
Beck’s resignation was submitted on the same day that Ottawa Police announced a slew of new criminal charges connected to a police operation that is being billed as the “largest drug bust” in Ottawa’s history.
In a short statement released Thursday, Ottawa’s police board said Beck had submitted the resignation earlier that day and that it was “effective immediately.” The statement cited “personal reasons” as the only explanation for Beck’s departure.
The police board declined to answer questions from PressProgress about whether it was aware of Beck’s family connection prior to her resignation and whether the police board took any steps out of due diligence to ensure sensitive information or documents had not been compromised.
In a statement to PressProgress, Ottawa Police Services Board Executive Director Krista Ferraro said “the Board will not be providing any further comment on this matter.”
Beck did not respond to a request for comment from PressProgress seeking to clarify when she first became aware of her family member’s arrest.
On Thursday, Ottawa Police issued a media release identifying Timon Beck, who is Gail Beck’s 37-year-old son, as one of a number of individuals charged with “participating in a criminal organization and conspiracy to traffic cocaine.”
The charges against Beck’s son have yet to be tested in court. There is currently no allegation that Gail Beck had any personal involvement in the alleged criminal activities nor that she misused her role with the police board to assist her son.
On December 6, Ottawa Police announced the seizure of $4.5 million worth of cocaine and crack cocaine, along with money and a handgun, following a 10-month investigation Ottawa Police dubbed: “Project Top Shelf.”
“This is a significant seizure and investigation that disrupts a criminal network operating in Ottawa and the province,” Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs said in a statement.
At an Ottawa City Council meeting the same day, Beck was seated next to Stubbs as the police chief presented the Ottawa Police Service’s 2024 draft budget.
During the meeting, in which Ottawa Police lobbied for millions in additional funding, Stubbs pointed to “Project Top Shelf” as an example underlining the value of the Ottawa Police Guns and Gangs unit.
“Later today, we’re actually going to be hosting a press conference in relation to a significant drug bust in Ottawa,” Stubbs told city councillors. “I’m being told (it) is the largest drug bust that we’ve had in our history.”
On social media the same day, Beck promoted the Ottawa Police Service’s press conference boasting about “Project Top Shelf,” which it again billed as the “largest drug seizures in the history of the Ottawa Police Service.”
This week’s most recent “Project Top Shelf” update was not promoted on the former police oversight board chair’s social media account.
Beck, a child psychiatrist and former Ottawa Citizen columnist with a long history of community service and serving on local boards, was recommended for police board chair by a three-person selection panel led by Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe, who had campaigned in 2022 to “recruit a strong, independent community member” to serve as Ottawa’s police board chair, previously described Beck as a “fantastic choice.”
Ottawa’s police board has been mired in controversy in recent years. Former city councillor Diane Deans was controversially ousted as chair following battles with then Mayor Jim Watson in the middle of the 2022 Freedom Convoy. Deans was replaced by Watson’s ally, Eli El-Chantiry.
El-Chantiry controversially hired a new police chief in the middle of the 2022 municipal election as polls began suggesting a tight mayoral race between the conservative-leaning Sutcliffe and progressive-leaning Catherine McKenney.
The move was condemned by Horizon Ottawa, a community group that is critical of the Ottawa Police Service, as “undemocratic and likely politically motivated.”
In September, a coalition of community groups and local residents launched a lawsuit against the police board challenging the constitutionality of several changes to the board’s public consultations procedures that sought to restrict speakers at police board meetings.
Those changes required speakers to submit comments in writing for the police board to review and approve in advance of each police board meeting and banned the public from speaking “disrespectfully” about Ottawa Police or police board members.
In a statement to PressProgress in September, Beck defended the rules by suggesting that the police board needs to see “comments in writing in advance” in order to ensure that they are “appropriate” to be heard by police board members.
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