Cops charged with corruption not the only Calgary police officers working as private investigators, trial told

For the third time in a week, a Calgary police officer has testified he worked for a private investigator despite being aware his second job was against CPS policy.

3 current and former service members accused of targeting mother in custody battle

Const. David Grouchey testified that he too worked for a private investigator despite knowing it was against CPS policy.` (Meghan Grant/CBC)

For the third time in a week, a Calgary police officer has testified he worked for a private investigator despite being aware his second job was against CPS policy.

Anthony Braile, Const. Bryan Morton and Sgt. Bradford McNish are on trial for corruption-related offences stemming from the work they did for a PI firm which had been hired to follow a woman in the middle of a custody battle. 

On Thursday, Const. David Grouchey invoked a section of the Canada Evidence Act which protects him from incriminating himself during his testimony. He is the second CPS officer to do so and their third officer to admit to working a job in violation of the Police Act.

Within minutes of telling the court he had condemned Bryan Morton's employment, he admitted to doing the same work himself.

Braile, Morton and McNish are accused of targeting Akele Taylor when they worked for a private investigation firm run by retired Calgary Police Service officer Steve Walton and his wife, Heather. 

Braile, Morton and McNish were all Calgary police officers when they worked for the Waltons' firm that was hired by multi-millionaire Ken Carter, who wanted full custody of the daughter he shared with Taylor. The Waltons and Carter go on trial for similar charges later this year.

From left: Bryan Morton and Brad McNish are current Calgary police officers while Tony Braile was fired from the service for an unrelated incident. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Grouchey said he was friends with Morton from 2012 to 2014. He told prosecutor Julie Snowdon that he was "shocked" to find out Morton was working on the side for a private investigator.

CPS has a policy that the Chief's office must sign off on any outside employment; the three big no-nos which are never approved are security work, employment in a licensed establishment, and driving a taxi.

Security work would be a conflict of interest, according to other police witnesses who testified earlier in the trial.

While the trio is not facing criminal charges for working with the Waltons — that could become an issue at a CPS hearing following the trial — they are accused of illegally accessing CPS computer systems to assist with that work.

But Grouchey was the third witness who faces no repercussions criminally or within CPS to testify that he was working for the Waltons PI firm while also serving as a Calgary police officer.

'I won't get in trouble criminally'

Grouchey says he warned Morton that the PI work put him "out on a bit of a limb, exposing himself to some trouble down the road" and told him not to get in trouble.

He described his friend's reaction as "cavalier." Grouchey said Morton told him: "Well I won't get in trouble criminally, it'll all be internally."

"I kind of wiped my hands clean at that point," said Grouchey.

But that didn't happen. In the same time period Grouchey said he was warning Morton, he also admitted to working for the Waltons himself. 

On 13 occasions, beginning in June 2013, Grouchey provided surveillance for the Waltons' company. 

Grouchey earned $13k

Ten of those shifts involved watching the flood-damaged, unoccupied home of a wealthy oil and gas businessman whose two houses containing $20-million in valuables.

On another occasion, Grouchey provided security for Sveinung Svarte during a Stampede party. 

Snowdon asked why Grouchey had warned Morton about getting in trouble for his surveillance and security work yet had gone on to do the same himself.

Instead of answering her question, Grouchey admitted to more work he'd done for Steve Walton, this time he spent two shifts watching a home where Akele Taylor lived. 

In total, Grouchey was paid $13,000 for his side gigs.

Earlier in the trial, two other current CPS officers also testified that they too had done work for the Waltons while active police officers.

'Make a few extra bucks'

Under cross-examination by McNish's lawyer Paul Brunnen, Grouchey wouldn't put a label on the work he did as either security or surveillance. 

"That's a matter of opinion, I looked at it as helping him out, make a few extra bucks on the side... it was very relaxed."

Brunnen asked if Grouchey considered the secondary employment criminal, to which the witness responded, "no."

CBC News contacted Calgary police to ask if there has been any fallout from Grouchey's disclosure of outside employment contrary to CPS policy but did not immediately hear back.

Grouchy likely would have told CPS investigators of his surveillance and security work before charges were laid in 2016.

Other officer ID'd conflict 

Grouchey's testimony was in stark contrast to Det. Darren Smith's, who was called as a witness earlier in the day.

Smith said he and Braile have been friends for years. Braile had confided in his friend that he was working for the Waltons and was involved in the surveillance of a woman at the centre of a custody battle. 

Smith told prosecutor Leah Boyd he warned Braile about the officer's outside employment. 

Akele Taylor testified that her ex, Ken Carter, hired a private investigation firm to stalk her for two years in order to gain custody of their daughter. (Instagram/Supplied)

When a call came in from a woman who alleged she was being followed, Smith said he put two and two together and suspected she was the same person his friend had under surveillance. He says he passed the call onto another officer with the same seniority to avoid a conflict of interest.

"I felt it wasn't fair to her and I didn't want to chance compromising myself," said Smith. 

$1-million private investigation

All three accused are charged with unauthorized use of a computer system and bribery. The bribery accusations relate to offers of thousands of dollars made to Taylor's friends and acquaintances for information that would help Carter gain custody of their daughter.

Braile and Morton also face charges of criminal harassment, while Morton and McNish each face a charge of breach of trust. 

Court has heard evidence that a GPS unit was placed on Taylor's vehicle and there were plans to bug the car, according to witnesses who testified earlier in the trial. She testified that she was "stalked," constantly followed and harassed by Steve and Heather Walton.

There is evidence Carter — who is said to be worth about $80 million — spent about a million dollars on the two-year campaign to discredit Taylor in an effort to secure full custody of their daughter. 

The trial is supposed to wrap up on March 2.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.