Former Hamilton police inspector David Doel has officially retired — leaving a community baffled as to how a suspended officer mired in controversy still collected almost $600,000 in salary in four years off the job.
With his retirement — six months shy of a full pension — Doel is no longer subject to the Police Services Act. And so, 14 Police Services Act charges against Doel were officially stayed during an abrupt phone hearing Wednesday morning. It took all of a minute. He wasn’t on the call.
Doel’s last official day on the Hamilton Police Service’s books was March 31. He made $134,530.24 while suspended last year, alongside $1,191.49 in taxable benefits. He didn’t work a day in 2013 — or any day since he was first suspended back in 2009.
The disgraced former inspector abruptly announced his retirement in November of last year, sixth months shy of receiving his full retirement package. He faced 14 counts of misconduct under the Police Services Act, including having sex on the job, keeping pornography on his work computer and using video equipment and the national criminal database for his own personal use.
Doel and his legal team stretched out the hearing process as long as possible — meaning he still collected his pay, vacation, sick time and benefits. That’s completely legal in Ontario — but something Chief of Police Glenn De Caire says he’s hoping to change.
“Today’s result is what’s within the current legal process. It is not what the chiefs of police within the province of Ontario have been seeking,” De Caire told CBC Hamilton.
Amendment process started 7 years ago
In 2007, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution asking the government to give chiefs of police the ability to suspend officers without pay for serious criminal offences, or if officers are held in custody or subject to a judicial order.
Hamilton has a “suspension without pay” working group that supports that original 2007 resolution, but are also looking to amend it with a De Caire-penned “white paper.” In that document, he's also looking to give police chiefs the authority to suspend without pay for serious matters when they’re looking to fire an officer.
De Caire and the working group are making that recommendation because they “find the behaviours to be egregious misconduct, which is reprehensible,” he said.
“It is offensive to the oath of office for police officers,” De Caire said. “These are offences that are not even remotely related to the enforcement of law or the performance of duty in good faith, and it is absolutely not what any community would expect from an officer in the lawful performance of their duty.”
So if these are changes the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police have been seeking for seven years, what’s holding things back? According to De Caire, it’s conversations about the process and protecting officer’s rights.
'Reckless' to give total suspension power to chief: union president
That’s an important conversation, and one that needs to be heeded carefully before any final decisions on the current suspension process is made in Ontario, Hamilton police union president Mike Thomas told CBC Hamilton. He says it would be “reckless” to give a chief “total power to suspend without pay.”
“That’s the wrong direction … without any appeals process,” Thomas said. That’s because oftentimes, the investigation into allegations against an officer isn’t completed at the outset. It can even take up to a year for an officer’s legal defence team to receive disclosure on a case — and in a criminal court, that would be enough to warrant a case being thrown out, Thomas says.
“There are times when the conduct of an officer certainly appears to be egregious, but we need some sort of set definition — what really is a serious offence?”
Thomas says a well thought out appeals process would be integral to any changes in the current system. De Caire, for his part, agreed. “We built in a process of review. It’s a check and balance,” he said.
Public barred from Doel hearing
Even if Doel’s hearing had gone ahead this year, the public would have been barred from the process and being privy to the evidence against him, as per a ruling from the hearing officer that said neither the public nor the media could attend.
De Caire accepted that ruling — even if he doesn’t much like it.
“Please do not accept that as my acceptance that any part of that hearing should have been in camera,” he said. “I have to respect the hearing officer’s decision, however – I don’t have to agree with the hearing officer’s decision.”
De Caire’s “white paper” proposal on the police suspension process will be presented to the Hamilton police board on April 22 and will be released to the public at that time.
It’s expected the board will then pursue it through the Ontario Association of Police Boards.