Police confirm 2nd off-duty officer arrest in a week in connection with drunk driving charges

Another Winnipeg police officer was arrested and faces drunk driving charges, police Chief Danny Smyth confirmed Wednesday.

2 officers arrested between Nov. 20 and 26, both facing drunk driving charges: police chief

Two Winnipeg police officers have been arrested and face drunk driving charges. (CBC)

Just two days after police confirmed an off-duty officer had been arrested for refusing a breathalyzer, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth has said another off-duty officer was arrested on a drunk driving charge earlier in the month.

On Monday, Nov. 20, RCMP arrested an off-duty officer in the Headingley area, just outside Winnipeg, Smyth said at a news conference Wednesday.

That officer will face charges including the care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired, Smyth said.

On Nov. 27, CBC News reported that another off-duty officer was arrested in West Kildonan on Nov. 26 after refusing a breathalyzer test.

Both officers were released and are scheduled to appear in court in January, Smyth said. They have both been placed on administrative leave.

Charges have not been officially laid. Smyth said police will release the names of the officers after that happens, as per standard police practice.

No 'police culture of binge drinking': chief

The two arrests come after Const. Justin Holz, 34, was charged with impaired driving causing death in connection with the collision that killed Cody Severight, 23, in October.

Holz was later charged with dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving and driving with a blood-alcohol level over .08 per cent causing death. Two other officers were also placed on administrative leave in connection with the incident.

Smyth said he called the Wednesday news conference "to focus awareness on drinking and driving, and more specifically on the conduct of some of our members with respect to drinking and driving."

"These are problems that we're dealing with and that our whole society deals with every day. Police are no different than other professions," Smyth said.

"I guess what makes us unique, and perhaps newsworthy, is the fact that we're held to a different standard because we're the ones that are responsible for enforcing the laws and ensuring public safety."

Smyth dismissed the notion police haven't been transparent about the incidents.

"That's simply not the case. In both cases, the police board and the city administrators were informed. In addition, the [Independent Investigation Unit] was informed of both incidents," he said. The IIU investigates all serious incidents involving Manitoba police officers.

"These officers will be held accountable for their conduct in both criminal proceedings and regulatory proceedings."

The chief also pushed back against the idea of a "police culture of binge drinking." Winnipeg has roughly 1,400 police officers, and Smyth said most of them don't take part in that kind of behaviour.

"For the small minority who engage in unhealthy drinking or who have drinking problems — and let's be clear here, this is less than one per cent of our members — our intent is to help people before their conduct is subject to criminal or regulatory investigations," he said.

Officers who are suspected of binge drinking can voluntarily sign up for assistance, Smyth said. In more serious cases — for instance, if an officer shows up to work smelling of alcohol — the officer can be mandated to get help and will be relieved of duties.

'Still reeling'

Smyth said the service is "still reeling" from Severight's death, and said his thoughts still go out to the man's family.

Winnipeg police arrest around 500 people on drunk driving-related charges per year, he said. Typically, one or two of those people are officers, he said.

"Often they don't go well known because there have been no injuries … nothing that brought attention to it," Smyth said.

"I feel terrible about it. I expect better conduct from our officers around their decisions after being out socializing. I made that pretty clear in previous releases. I expect high conduct from our officers."