Officer claims she was target of bullying and hazing
A former senior Edmonton Police Service officer broke down repeatedly Friday as she told a hearing about the bullying, humiliation and ostracization she suffered after she reported police misconduct.
Monique Prefontaine said she was intimidated and menaced after she filed an assault complaint against one officer and lodged a grievance that contained allegations of serious misconduct, including brutalizing street people, against members of downtown division's squad C-2.
"There was a code of silence," Prefontaine told the provincial Law Enforcement Review Board. "I was told that it was in my best interest to keep my mouth shut and let it go."
Asked what the code of silence was, Prefontaine said an officer was not to report inappropriate or questionable behaviour by another officer.
Out of fear of being "ostracized and blackballed," Prefontaine, then a 10-year-veteran, stuck to the code when she first joined the squad in 2003. She admitted under questioning that she did not make notes or file reports about any of the alleged misconduct she witnessed.
She said the code was enforced within the squad through "intimidation, bullying and outright punitive punishment, both direct and indirect."
Treatment humiliating, Prefontaine testifies
Prefontaine said her trouble started in November 2003 when she filed an assault complaint against another officer, a friend of her ex-husband. She said she was menaced with dirty looks in the female constable's locker room, intimidated, ostracized and sworn at in the hallways.
She testified that on Christmas Eve 2003, she was summoned to a room by her squad mates and was told they were holding a "trial" for her. She was forced stand in front of them while one read of list of things they didn't like about her.
That humiliating incident, she said, was about "bullying, hazing and intimidation."
In June 2004, she was transferred to the police communications centre. Despite years of excellent performance reviews before joining that squad, she was told she was being transferred because of poor performance.
She grieved the transfer because she believed it was punitive. As part of that grievance, Prefontaine detailed the abuse of both herself and street people by her squad mates.
Those allegations resulted in an internal investigation and the dismantling of the squad.
At a two-day police slo-pitch tournament in June 2005, officers from her former squad C-2, several of whom were under internal investigation, wore T-shirts that featured a logo: the number 440 inside a red circle with a diagonal slash through it. The number 440 is police code for rat.
The hearing was told these so-called No-Rats T-shirts were aimed specifically at Monique Prefontaine.
Prefontaine's former boss, Sgt. Dave Pelech, the head of squad C-2, produced and distributed the T-shirts. At a subsequent disciplinary hearing in 2006, Pelech was suspended without pay for 80 hours. But the chief at that time decided not to charge the other officers who wore them.
The watchdog Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association (CTLA) appealed both Pelech's penalty and the chief's decision not to charge the officers to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB).
CTLA lawyer Tom Engel argued the police internal affairs investigation and subsequent disciplinary hearing made no attempt to determine the degree of pervasiveness of the code of silence. He said that had to be established to impose proper penalties.
Under cross-examination, Prefontaine admitted that none of her allegations resulted in charges against her fellow officers. But she insisted an investigator told her they were not sustained because of "insufficient witness evidence."
Ex-constable also alleges bullying, intimidation
Prefontaine resigned from the police service in 2005 and settled with the police service out of court. That settlement prevented her from speaking out about what she had been subjected to, and witnessed, until she was subpoenaed to testify at the LERB hearing last week.
Prefontaine's testimony came during the second day of the hearing. On the hearing's first day, Jerry Hove, another former constable from squad C-2, said he quit the police service in 2003 out of fear for his, and his family's, safety due to threats and intimidation from his police colleagues after he expressed concerns about abuse of street people.
Hove testified he refused to serve as a witness against his fellow officers despite an offer of round-the-clock security for him and his family.
In a dramatic turn of events, Engel told the board that minutes before the hearing began, three of Hove's former colleagues — Pelech and constables Ahmed Alkarout and Elvin Toy — had attempted to intimidate Hove by asking where he lived, what his wife's name was, and how many children he had.
Engel said that during a break in proceedings, Toy had given Hove an, "I'm watching you," glare. A CBC reporter witnessed the incident. The board chair also severely criticized Toy after he was caught surreptitiously reading Engel's confidential notes during a break in proceedings. And the chair scolded Pelech, Alkarout and Toy for their inappropriate behaviour during the hearing.
The hearing is expected to resume in early January, at which time it's expected the three officers will testify.