A 19-year Hamilton police veteran pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of discreditable conduct for receiving oral sex from a sex worker and then lying that she was an informant when another officer caught him.

The $20 encounter with the woman will cost the officer $40,000 in lost salary.

Hamilton police counsel Marco Visentini says Const. Thomas McKay’s actions showed a “remarkable lack of judgment” and have embarrassed the police service and the officer’s own family.

According to an agreed statement of facts, the charges stem from an incident that happened last July in the east end of the city, when McKay was off duty. He was driving his own car in the area of Barton Street East and St. Olga Street around 3:30 p.m. when another officer — Const. Kobe Saffu — saw a sex worker standing at a bus shelter get into McKay’s vehicle.

'The public certainly does not expect a police officer to act this way.' - Hamilton police counsel Marco Visentini

McKay knew that the woman was a sex trade worker when she got into his car, hearing documents say. Saffu lost sight of the vehicle because of traffic, but McKay admitted to driving to a parking lot at 275 Sherman Ave. N, where the woman performed oral sex on him in the front seat.

Saffu saw the vehicle as it was pulling out of the parking lot, and pulled up on the passenger side to see the sex workerreferred to as  M.H. in the documentsstill sitting in the front seat. According to hearing documents, Saffu stopped the car after M.H. had gotten out — and that’s when he recognized McKay as the driver.

“Saffu questioned McKay as to what he was doing. McKay appeared shocked and told Saffu that he was meeting with a confidential informant,” the agreed statement of facts reads. “When McKay made his statement to Saffu, McKay knew that the statement was false and that M.H. was not his confidential informant.”

“Saffu told McKay that he did not believe him. McKay then drove away from the scene quickly.”

A $40,000 demotion

Saffu tracked down the sex worker, who told him that she had performed oral sex on McKay for $20, and that she didn’t know he was a cop.

At Thursday’s hearing, McKay pleaded guilty to the misconduct charges. He appeared in a black suit with a white shirt and had close cropped hair and a short goatee. He spoke little, except to enter his guilty pleas and say he understood the charges against him.

Hearing officer Bob Strathdee upheld the two-year demotion the prosecution was seeking in the case. McKay has been demoted from first class constable to third class constable. He will be upgraded to second class constable next year and reinstated as a first class constable in 2016. He will lose just over $40,000 in salary over that time.

Visentini says that there is a standard of behaviour the public expects from police officers — whether they're on or off duty. “The public certainly does not expect a police officer to act this way,” he said, adding that the police service is working “tirelessly” to combat prostitution and crime associated with it. ”It’s difficult to imagine police Const. McKay was unaware of those efforts.”

McKay 'promises not to repeat' misconduct: lawyer

McKay's lawyer Gary Clewley told the hearing that his client apologizes to the police service. “He realizes his conduct was misconduct, and he promises not to repeat it,” Clewley said, adding that McKay’s personnel file is “chock full of commendations.”

“It’s fair to say this was an isolated incident.”

Clewley also pointed to McKay’s enrolment in an Elizabeth Fry Society “John School” as evidence of his remorse. John schools are diversion and educations programs set up for people who are arrested for soliciting services from a sex worker.

Visentini told the hearing that he’s “confident” McKay learned from the experience and won’t be before the tribunal again — because if he is, his employment “would almost certainly be in jeopardy.”