The officer in charge of a police pilot project created to combat human trafficking and rescue sex trade workers has pleaded guilty to nine Police Services Act charges after engaging in sexual acts and sending lewd messages and photos of his penis to sex workers and colleagues.

Sgt. Derek Mellor — a 14-year veteran of the service who was once the lead of Hamilton Police’s anti-human trafficking initiative dubbed “Project Rescue” — appeared Monday morning at Hamilton police headquarters. He said little, but replied “guilty” each time he was asked how he was pleading to the charges, which included relations with five different women who were somehow involved with his job.

As part of an agreed statement of facts, Mellor admitted to undertaking a sexual relationship with the mother of a woman whose human trafficking case he was working on. He admitted to engaging in sexual activity with her on the side of a rural road, sending her pictures of his penis and a three-second video of him masturbating.

Over that period of time, the woman sent Mellor a number of photos of her in lingerie, and her profile from a website that advertises discreet relationships between married couples.

Mellor also pleaded guilty to sending sexual photos and texts to two women who worked with the human trafficking volunteer organization “Walk With Me.” In both cases, he obtained their contacts through working together and at social gatherings and fundraisers for sex workers. The messages started as flirtatious before escalating to blatantly sexual, according to police act documents.

1 a.m. messages to sex worker

According to the statement of facts, Mellor also pursued sexual relationships with two sex workers while working with Project Rescue. One case stretched back to 2005, when he met a sex trade worker during the investigation of a vehicle collision. After the investigation wrapped up, Mellor obtained her phone number and met with her twice for coffee at her home. Each time the woman's cousin was at the apartment and nothing happened, documents say.

The statement says that years later, Mellor and the sex worker met again as part of outreach for Project Rescue. He told her that he had seen her photos on an escort website and she looked "really good." He repeatedly texted her asking if he could come over after work at around 1 a.m. and she responded that she felt it would be inappropriate, documents say. The woman eventually informed Det. Const. David Hartless — who also worked on Project Rescue — about the messages. Hartless discussed it with Mellor, and he agreed to not communicate with her anymore.

The document says the second charge relating to an inappropriate relationship with a sex worker happened in January of 2012 when Mellor was performing outreach to women working in the sex trade, documents say. After getting her number, Mellor started texting her — first with small talk, then mentioning that he'd noticed she was "working out in Burlington lately."

He mentioned swinging by the Admiral Inn where she was working, but said "Hmm, I'm scared. Lol. I don't trust myself. U might take advantage of me : )," the agreed statement of facts reads. The two did eventually meet at the hotel, and made small talk before Mellor "hugged her for approximately 30 seconds and caressed her back. No words were spoken," the statement reads.

The woman received further messages from Mellor that made her uncomfortable, and she too contacted Det. Const. Hartless about his behaviour, who told her that he would speak to Mellor. A short time later, she received an apology from Mellor.

Mellor also pled guilty Monday afternoon to having sex with B.S., a prostitute and potential witness in the human trafficking case.

According to the statement of facts, Mellor and B.S. met through Project Rescue. Mellor contacted B.S. in June 2012 and said he wanted to speak to her about her knowledge of human trafficking. Mellor started sending flirtatious text messages to her. In early July, he picked her up near King Street East and Tisdale Avenue. He appeared to have been drinking, the document says.

Mellor and B.S. drove to a parking lot near Eastwood Park where B.S. often took her customers. Once there, B.S. performed fellatio on Mellor and then they had sex. Afterward, B.S. asked Mellor to "shoot me 40 bucks," and Mellor declined. He also told her they had to keep the encounter a secret, and dropped her off at King Street East and Tisdale Avenue again.

Provincial funding not renewed

He also faces police act charges for keeping improper notes over the course of "Project Rescue" and his interactions with these women.

Project Rescue was a much-vaunted pilot project funded by the provincial government to target human trafficking in Hamilton. From Sept. 11, 2011 to Dec. 12, 2012, Mellor was the project's lead. He was suspended from the Hamilton Police Service with pay on Dec. 13, 2012.

Provincial funding for the unit was not renewed in 2013.

Two other charges that had been laid against Mellor for corrupt practices and breach of duty were withdrawn.

The hearing resumes at 10 a.m. on April 24 for sentencing. Mellor is "regretful" and hopes to keep his job, says his attorney, Gary Clewley.

"He plans to reject the submission that I expect will come from the prosecution that he be dismissed," Clewley told CBC Hamilton. 

Shabeeh Ahmad, a volunteer with local sexual assault victims, has started a petition pushing for Mellor's dismissal. It has 210 signatures so far.

"It's a really vulnerable population that he took advantage of," she said.

With files from Samantha Craggs