A former Edmonton police constable has testified he quit the service as a rookie rather than tell internal affairs investigators about "serious criminal behaviour" he saw fellow officers commit because he was afraid for his and his family's safety.
Appearing before the Law Enforcement Review Board on Thursday, 39-year-old Jerry Hove said he declined an internal affairs offer of protection because he didn't believe the service could realistically protect him and his family from his fellow officers in downtown division squad C-2.
"At that point, I decided it was better if I said nothing," Hove said in response to questions from Tom Engel, the lawyer for the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association.
Hove also told the board he took no notes of what he witnessed because, as a recruit, he knew they would be inspected by senior officers. He feared they would ruin his reputation and career. He said that when he expressed concerns to his field training officer, "I was told I lacked enough experience to determine right or wrong as to the role of a police officer and I would know better the longer I stayed there."
Hove quit the service in September 2003 after just three months on the job.
"The code of silence was pervasive and powerful in C-2," Engel told the board before Hove's testimony. "It was made clear that Hove should be fearful of informing on those members who were engaged in criminal activities."'
Officers tried to intimidate ex-constable, hearing told
The hearing took a dramatic turn when Engel told the board that some of Hove's former squad members had tried to intimidate the former officer just minutes before the hearing was to begin Thursday.
Det. Dave Pelech and constables Elvin Toy and Ahmed Alkarout asked Hove to go for coffee. Engel said they asked Hove if he still lived in the same house, what his wife's name was and how many children he had. Hove interpreted the questions as a threat.
Engel said that at a break in proceedings, Toy approached Hove and gave him an, "I'm watching you glare." A CBC reporter witnessed Toy's encounter with Hove.
"I am saying there is good reason for him to be fearful," Engel told the board.
After another break in proceedings, board chairman Ted Lawson ordered Toy to stand and then sharply criticized the veteran officer for surreptitiously reading Engel's confidential notes at the lawyer's desk during the break. Engel later said he has filed a formal complaint with the Edmonton Police Service.
Hove's testimony came during the second day of an LERB hearing involving the so-called "No Rats" T-shirts the officers in squad C-2 wore at a police slo-pitch tournament in June 2005. The shirts sported a logo, the number 440 in a circle with a diagonal slash through it — 440 is police code for rat.
At that time, another officer from the squad, Monique Prefontaine, had filed a grievance that contained allegations that her fellow squad members had abused inner-city residents. An internal investigation was underway, Toy had been suspended with pay and the others transferred.
Disciplinary hearing on T-shirts in 2006
The internal investigation resulted in a disciplinary hearing in 2006. The presiding officer said the shirts were a "veiled threat" to officers who might report misconduct among their colleagues. Because Pelech, the squad leader, created the shirts and distributed them at the tournament, he was suspended for 80 hours despite a recommendation that he be demoted. The acting police chief at the time, Daryl da Costa, decided the officers who wore the shirts should not be charged.
The Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association appealed both Pelech's penalty and the chief's decision not to charge the other officers to the Law Enforcement Review Board.
Engel argued the police internal investigation should have determined how pervasive the police code of silence was. He said evidence provided through the testimony of Hove, Prefontaine and another constable, Jody Ponto, about police brutality and the code of silence should result in stiffer penalties for all the officers involved in the "No Rats" T-shirt incident.
Robert Abells, the accused officers' lawyer, argued there was no need to hear evidence from any of the officers, including Hove, because Pelech had pleaded guilty at the disciplinary hearing and understood the T-shirts could be construed by some as a veiled threat, although that was not his intention.
Abells said Pelech made the T-shirts to boost morale among his squad who he thought had been unfairly accused of improper behaviour.
"He wanted to create some esprit de corps among his squad, buoy their spirits," Abells said.
2 officers to testify before hearing
Engel had told the board that both Hove and Prefontaine were prepared to testify about criminal behaviour by their fellow squad members. Engel said Hove, in a previous interview, had told him he "observed serious criminal behaviour by C-2 members." But Abells argued it was unfair to his clients to have this evidence come out in a hearing.
"It is difficult to expect these inflammatory, if not scandalous, allegations have done nothing but taint the hearing," Abells told the hearing. "I can't possibly see how they can get a fair hearing."
Abells argued Hove, Prefontaine and Ponto should not be allowed to testify, a position shared by the lawyer for police Chief Mike Boyd. Abells also asked the board to adjourn the hearing so he could file a court application in an attempt to stop the three officers from testifying against their colleagues.
But Lawson rejected Abells's request for an adjournment and ruled the officers would testify but only about the code of silence. He said he would allow no testimony about alleged illegal activity because he didn't want to turn the hearing into a criminal investigation.
After Lawson's ruling, Hove decided he would finally co-operate with a police investigation and he was escorted from the hearing by an internal affairs officer.
During his testimony, Hove said he finally decided to speak out because he said he "felt a lot of guilt about not coming forward. For me it is putting closure to what I should have done back then."
The hearing continues Friday with testimony from Prefontaine and Ponto.