Almost a month after the sudden retirement of a disgraced police officer who collected more than $550,000 in salary in four years while being suspended, the issue of suspension without pay will be under the spotlight again for Hamilton police.
Police Chief Glenn De Caire will present a white paper at the police services board meeting on Tuesday, seeking amendments to Ontario's Police Services Act to allow suspension without pay for officers charged with serious criminal offences and those held in custody.
In addition, De Caire is asking the province to give police chiefs “the discretionary ability” to suspend officers without pay for serious Police Services Act misconducts.
In his white paper, De Caire cited the case of former Hamilton police inspector David Doel, who collected $552,626 in salary while being suspended since 2009 due to serious Police Services Act offences.
Doel faced 14 misconduct charges, which include having sex on duty, keeping pornography on his work computer, and using video equipment and the national criminal database for personal use.
Doel abruptly announced his retirement last November in the midst of his hearing — six months shy of a full pension — which meant he was no longer subject to the Police Services Act and the charges were stayed. His last official day was March 31.
'Tremendous negative feedback'
De Caire said the $552,626 that was collected does not include the costs of the outside prosecutor, the hearing officer, the rental hotel room for hearing dates or the investigator’s time.
He said he also recognizes that Doel's case “has brought tremendous negative feedback from the community.”
The issue of suspension without pay is not a new one, the white paper pointed out, and there is a recognized need across the country to address the issue.
Ontario is the only province where suspended police officers must be paid.
Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Manitoba all have legislation to allow suspension of police officers without pay in certain circumstances.
Under Ontario's Police Services Act, the only circumstance in which a police officer doesn't get paid while suspended is if he or she is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment.
If an officer is convicted of a crime but doesn't have to serve time behind bars, they remain suspended with pay until they can be fired through the police disciplinary procedure. The same process applies to officers internally charged with misconduct.
If the officer appeals their termination, it can be delayed for months, even years.
Innocent until proven guilty
In 2007, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution asking the government to give police chiefs the ability to suspend officers without pay for serious criminal offences, or if officers charged are held in custody or subject to court-ordered conditions that would prevent them from carrying out their duties.
De Caire, who has been a vocal opponent of suspension with pay, supports this resolution, and he wants to take it a step further by adding serious Police Services Act misconducts to the criteria.
In his white paper, De Caire said the purpose of the document is to “further state it is additionally necessary to permit a Police Chief to suspend an officer without pay for serious Police Services Act misconducts.”
“Allegations of serious Police Service Act misconduct also represents a fundamental breach of public trust,” the white paper continued, adding that suspension without pay would be reserved only for serious misconduct allegations in which dismissal is sought.
Critics of suspension without pay said police officers, like all other citizens, are presumed innocent until proven guilty and they should still get their pay while they are exercising their right to appeal.
The police services board meeting will take place on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Hamilton city hall.