Veteran police officer pleads guilty to misconduct after domestic assault

A veteran police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misconduct charge stemming from an incident of domestic assault when he was off-duty in 2016.
A misconduct hearing Wednesday at Hamilton police central station resulted in a guilty plea. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

A veteran police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misconduct charge stemming from an incident of domestic assault when he was off-duty in 2016.

The officer pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of assault last June and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 25 hours of community service.

The hearing Wednesday was a hearing on a charge of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act stemming from that guilty plea.

"The public certainly does not expect a police officer to behave in this way," said Hamilton police prosecutor Marco Visentini.

The police service prosecutor and the officer's union representative agreed to a suggested sentence of a one-year demotion. While that carries a salary reduction of $20,000, the lost opportunities for overtime and paid duty shifts translate to a financial impact of up to $45,000 for the officer, according to the police union.

CBC Hamilton is not naming the officer charged to protect the identity of the assault victim.

The hearing officer, Supt. Jamie Anderson, will now mull that suggestion and release a sentence.

The incident in question happened as the officer's relationship with his common law spouse of more than 10 years was in decline.

The couple was arguing in their Brantford home, and the argument became physical. The officer pushed his partner and she fell into an adjacent room. She left the house and called 9-1-1, and when police arrived she was "visibly shaken and upset," according to an agreed statement of facts.

She complained her knee was sore, and police observed scrapes and a hole ripped in her t-shirt.

The officer was arrested and subsequently pleaded guilty to assault, a lesser charge than the assault causing bodily harm he was initially charged with.

Visentini noted that the Hamilton Police Service has special programs meant to target and decrease the incidence of domestic violence. Instead of supporting those efforts, the officer "committed the very act this police service is trying to address."

He said the officer's conduct is at "the high end of the seriousness spectrum."

But the officer, in a career of more than 30 years with Hamilton police, has never been disciplined before. His union representative, Belchior Arruda, submitted decades worth of commendations and performance reviews showing the officer is well-regarded within the service.

The officer "completely regrets that split-second decision he made that day," Arruda said.

He said the moment was "out of character" for the officer.