Could the alleged fake ticket scam lead to problems in the courts?
The chair of the Hamilton Police Service Board says that the arrest of seven ACTION team officers "creates problems with public trust and policing," and that it also may cause the same trust issue in the courts, too.
"How can that officer ever go before a court on another issue without a defense attorney using that?," board chair Lloyd Ferguson said.
Five of the seven officers under investigation from the high-profile street policing ACTION team have been charged as part of a fake ticket scam. On Wednesday, Ferguson said the investigation should not taint the entire ACTION unit, saying was a case of allegations against a few officers in the 40-person unit.
The charges stem from a discrepancy in 32 tickets. Detectives investigating the alleged fake ticket scam found the tickets in a service shredder box with both the police and offender copy still together, meaning the ticket was processed through the courts but never delivered to the offender.
Chief Glenn De Caire called a press conference Tuesday to speak to the arrests, and said that the falsified ticket charges will be removed from the courts through due process.
De Caire addressed the issue of public trust at that press conference saying "the relationship that we have with our community is vital to the success of police work."
He added that "what the public needs to know" is that the force will investigate thoroughly whenever there are allegations of wrongdoing."
Former Toronto Police and Ontario Provincial Police officer Ivon Fournier, president of the traffic ticket fighting service XPolice, said If someone was written, but not given a ticket, they would most likely find out when they tried to renew their driver's licence or when they move.
"At that point, you take action," Fournier said.
It gets murky for those with no fixed address or license — who would not be aware of any ticket against them. Fournier echoed Ferguson's thoughts on what would happen to all charges written by the five officers accused.
"An officer is really nothing unless they have their integrity and their credibility intact," Fournier said. "These officers in particular will be constantly challenged because of these offences on their integrity and their credibility."
As a former officer himself, he said he never felt pressure to write tickets, and said he was not aware of any quota system in place in Hamilton. Ferguson said that there is no quota system in place, although there are performance measurements all City of Hamilton employees, including police officers are tasked to meet. Those are delegated by an acting sergeant, Ferguson added.
The ACTION (Addressing Crime Trends In Our Neighbourhoods) team was created five years ago to curb crime rates. The team often wears yellow vests and patrols on foot and bicycle, and can often be seen in the downtown core. No mention of the probe appeared in the service's 2014 year-end crime statistics report. The report does say ACTION officers have issued over 23,300 offence notices since 2010.