A former Kitchener, Ont., resident is suing Waterloo Regional Police and three officers, alleging that one of them stole nude photographs of him from his home, shot pictures of them with his personal phone and then distributed them among other officers.
Davin Charney, the lawyer representing Matthew Waltenberry, said a statement of claim has been filed with an Ontario court.
Waltenberry's $900,000 lawsuit alleges that Christopher Knox, a former constable with Waterloo Regional Police, stole the nude pictures of Waltenberry while he was at the man's home on a routine call on Feb. 1, 2011.
The lawsuit further alleges that Knox snapped pictures of the photographs with his phone and then shared them with at least six fellow investigators on a BlackBerry messenger group.
"Did he do it to humiliate me?" an emotional Waltenberry said at a news conference Wednesday held in front of a Kitchener police detachment.
"I found out he had a wife and kids. So was it a secret sexual thing and these six other officers were involved?"
The lawsuit also named Const. Matthew VanderHeide, who allegedly saw Knox steal the photographs, but failed to report it.
The lawsuit further alleges that when Waterloo Regional Police began its probe into the matter, Const. Jeff Vongkhamphou attempted to destroy evidence by going into Knox's police locker, removing the photographs and putting them in the garbage.
An emotional Waltenberry said the ordeal has shaken his sense of security and forced him to move to British Columbia.
"How can you trust these officers aren't going to harass me? How can I call feel safe to call 911? It's really scary. I've left my family. I've moved away. I can't be in this town anymore. It's really hard to live on your own 4,000 kilometres away," he said through tears.
"This points to a much broader problem with police," said Charney, noting the case gives the impression police use a double standard when it comes to enforcing the law.
"That's the big problem here. It would seem that other officers don't report [crimes by other officers] and actively cover it up," he said.
Vongkhamphou admitted last May to disposing of nude photographs and a dildo Knox had allegedly stolen during other police calls, media reports say.
The alleged thefts occurred when both men were working as patrol officers in Waterloo Region.
Knox stole the sex toy while investigating an attempted break-in back in January 2011, reports say.
Charney said the alleged violation of Waltenberry's privacy made his client wary of police, and that he feels sexually violated.
"Mr. Waltenberry left Kitchener. He didn't feel safe in the community," he said.
Charney said police have still not returned Waltenberry's nude photos, and his client worries they may be circulating online.
"We hold the public trust in high regard," Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian said Wednesday.
Although he could not discuss details of a case that's currently before the courts, he said he wanted to assure the public that police will get to the bottom of any alleged wrongdoing.
"If there are incidents where members have alleged to have used their authority or abused their authority, or in any way compromised the trust of the community, we have a commitment to address that."
None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court.