Cops joked that Ruthowsky was 'the leader' of his criminal informants, court hears

Police officers who worked with Craig Ruthowsky used to joke that he was “one of” and even “the leader” of his sizable cache of criminal informants, court heard Friday as the corruption trial into Ruthowsky’s conduct continues.

Trial of Hamilton Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky scheduled to run another 2 weeks

Det. Const. Craig Ruthowsky of Hamilton police is facing several charges in Toronto Superior Court. The Crown alleges Ruthowsky was helping the criminals he was supposed to be prosecuting, in exchange for cash. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Police officers who worked with Hamilton cop Craig Ruthowsky used to joke that he was "one of" and even "the leader of" his sizable cache of criminal informants, court heard Friday as the corruption trial into Ruthowsky's conduct continues.

The jury saw more video from a police officer named Robert Hansen, who delved deeper into his relationship with Ruthowsky. Usually, witnesses testify in court in front of the jury, but "there are good reasons the witness is not here," Justice Robert Clark said.

In the video, in which he's being questioned by an OPP officer, Hansen refers to police act charges that have been levied against him.

"It was a longstanding joke that [Ruthowsky] knew so much about his guys because he was actually one of them, or he was actually the leader. And we all used to joke like well, that's how he knows so much about them — because he is," Hansen said.

"I mean, he lives in this half-a-million-dollar house in Ancaster with all this new stuff … where the hell do you guys get the money for this?

"So it's like a big long joke that he's dealing money or he's doing all kinds of nefarious things."

I remember being told once by one of my bosses ... I need to be more like Craig Ruthowsky.- Robert Hansen

Ruthowsky, 44, has pleaded not guilty in Superior Court in Toronto to charges of bribery, attempting to obstruct justice, trafficking cocaine, criminal breach of trust, and conspiring to traffic marijuana.

He's accused of taking $20,000 monthly payments from a drug dealer in exchange for tips on police investigations.

Court has heard that Ruthowsky had the biggest cache of confidential informants of anyone in the police service.

'You're the frigging leader'

In the video, Hansen talks about the jokes officers would make when Ruthowsky would bring in insider tips from his portfolio of drug dealers, who police dubbed "The Downtown Crips."

"It was an easy joke to make; 'Well — of course you know, because you're their frigging leader, you're the one who tells them what to do, you're the boss,'" he said.

"He knew all the background operations, because of the scope of all the guys he talked to and were giving him information."

When asked if Ruthowsky ever took money from those dealers, Hansen said he didn't know of a time that actually happened. He also said he believed Ruthowsky made money from a side-business putting in pools, and from selling one of his family's properties.

"It's an easier thing to joke about when you think it's not real," he said.

Hansen also talked about the culture surrounding the guns and gangs unit when both he and Ruthowsky were assigned there. Hansen said he'd catch flak for defending a female officer in the unit, and called into question the unit's impromptu filing system.

Seizures of evidence like drugs would be placed in assigned shelves inside an old cell within the gang unit's headquarters — a shuttered Hamilton police building where they still operated. Officers would keep their bulletproof vests and guns on those shelves, Hansen testified, alongside evidence.

"It's probably a very poor system," Hansen said.

An ongoing police rivalry

He also touched on the ongoing internal rivalry between the guns and gangs unit and the drug unit, which has now surfaced several times over the course of the trial.

"[There was] a general mindset that we were not working together," he said.

Several times over the course of the taped interview, the OPP officer asks Hansen if Ruthowsky ever took drugs and sold them, or nabbed money that had been seized from crime scenes. Each time, Hansen's answers were elusive.

"I'm not aware of any times anyone took money, but — and I can't pin this to Ruthowsky in particular — but there are times over the years where you'd seize, like five thousand dollars off of someone, then we'd go out to the bar and someone would like get the bill for our drinks or whatever.

"And you wouldn't ask [about it], because maybe you didn't want to know the answer."

Despite the issues surrounding the unit that have crept out during the trial, multiple police officers have now testified that Ruthowsky was seen as a good cop within Hamilton police.

"He spoke to so many people — I remember being told once by one of my bosses, he said to me, I won't get promoted, I need to be more like Craig Ruthowsky, like he's the model that we should work after because of what he does," Hansen said.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter, CBC Hamilton

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Hamilton home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.