hsycsoyg · 2021-03-18

Bylaw officers want exemption to law

A few local professionals are hoping to get the ear of the province when it comes to the new cellphone ban in cars.

Police, fire, and ambulance personnel are exempt from the proposed law but municipal law enforcement is not.

“We have the ability as officers to communicate with certain devices, like cellphone or two-way radio while driving,” said Brenda Russell, president of the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario (MLEOA).

“The fact that (Bill 118) doesn’t exempt us, it would mean we fall within the general prohibition.”

While Russell agrees with the idea behind the bill and says it will make roads safer for all drivers, she believes municipal law enforcement officers need to be exempted so they can do their jobs.

“A lot of time our officers are engaged in services to the community, through their enforcement duties, and they require a prompt response that require communications that are critical to getting there in a timely manner,” she said.

Without an exemption, it means bylaw enforcement officers have to stop, pull over, and make a call, then get back on the road. Whether it’s a dog bite or a lost child at the waterfront, municipal law enforcement officers are called to help in emergencies.

“In urban areas, like downtown Toronto, they might not have the immediate ability to pull over to receive communications that could be critical or time-sensitive.”

Russell wants to ensure their jobs – or personal safety – aren’t hampered by the legislation.

“If we had an officer in distress and we weren’t able to communicate that person’s whereabouts in a timely fashion because it wasn’t convenient to pull over, it would be critical for us.”

Last month, the municipal law enforcement officials made a presentation to the government to plead their case.

Russell said there were concerns with the wording of some other laws, such as the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, but changes were made to correct any problems.

“We watch the legislation very carefully to ensure our ability to perform our job responsibilities.”

The Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario is a non-profit professional Association representing more than 1,300 municipal law enforcement officers throughout the province.