Frustration, disappointment after Hamilton police officer fails to show up for hearing date

Parties participating a hearing for a Hamilton police officer found guilty in connection with the arrest of two photojournalists were prepared to suggest penalties Tuesday, but Const. Jeff Todoruck never showed up.

Const. Jeff Todoruck was found guilty of 4 counts under the Police Services Act

This screen capture from a video at the scene shows photojournalist Jeremy Cohn being arrested by Const. Jeff Todoruck in 2017. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

Participants at a discipline hearing for a Hamilton police officer found guilty in connection with the arrest of two photojournalists were prepared to suggest penalties Tuesday, but Const. Jeff Todoruck never showed up.

Instead, those in attendance were left to express their frustration as the clock ticked past the 10 a.m. start time.

"We take our role in society very seriously and we take the conduct of our journalists very seriously and we would expect police do the same thing. That has not been evident over the last three years and three months," said Global News director Mackay Taggart, the complainant in the hearing.

"I am very disappointed officer Todoruck does not feel it important to be here today."

Todoruck was found found guilty of two counts of neglect of duty, one count of discreditable conduct and one count of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority under the Police Services Act in a decision from hearing officer Peter Lennox dated May 31.

That decision also found Todoruck not guilty of one count of discreditable conduct.

The hearing arose out of a tense incident in May 2017, when Todoruck arrested then-Global News TV camera operator Jeremy Cohn and independent freelancer Dave Ritchie at the scene of a fatal Waterdown crash where a young girl had died.

A video from the scene shows Todoruck pinning Cohn to the ground with his knee and cuffing him with zip ties, then pulling him to a police vehicle.

Cohn was released without charge. Ritchie, whose camera Todoruck put in his cruiser before handcuffing him and putting him in the cruiser as well, was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer. Those charges were later dropped.

Following Todoruck's no-show Tuesday it's unclear when the parties will be able to meet and discuss penalties again.

"I'm not privy to the circumstances of officer Todoruck not being here this morning," explained prosecutor Brian Duxbury. "But … I am aware officer Todoruck is absent from work."

Journalist arrest caught on tape

5 years ago
Duration 1:23
Video shows one of two cameramen who were arrested at the scene where a young girl died in Hamilton in 2017.

The lawyer said he would follow up with the service to try and learn more about what was going on. A conference call to update everyone involved in scheduled for Sept. 21.

Hamilton police confirmed Tuesday that Todoruck is not currently at work, but declined to comment further.

Duxbury noted Todoruck had already missed multiple opportunities to provide input during the process following the decision in June, including multiple emails and calls.

However, without Todoruk present, he wasn't comfortable proceeding because he's seeking a penalty and couldn't "100 per cent guarantee" the officer was aware of the hearing.

"Officer Todoruck must be in a proper frame of mind to hear all of these things," said Duxbury. "If he's not well, and I don't know, he needs to be well and he needs to get back to work first then come to this hearing second."

Taggart said his exasperation with how the matter has unfolded goes beyond the most recent setback.

"Throughout this entire process I have felt as though certain parties have not taken this process seriously," he said, adding he wasn't just talking about Todoruck.

"I also feel as though throughout this process, despite our best efforts … Global News has never been able to reach directly anyone in a position of power with the Hamilton Police Service."

Global has not had "constructive dialogue" with Hamilton police since the arrest over three years ago, he said.

'Just so frustrating'

The news organization's goal goes beyond simply seeking accountability for the arrests, Taggart explained. Global also hopes to open up communication with the police and work toward a better relationship moving forward.

"Please let's use this opportunity to have a dialogue, to respect the important and vital role both our parties play in building a community and building accountability for the public and let's create a dialogue."

In an email to CBC, police spokesperson Jackie Penman responded saying the service "respects the role of the media in our society" and will continue to work with reporters.

Taggart also noted he now has a better understanding of how difficult it can be to navigate a complaint involving police, even with the resources and legal support Global has that go far beyond those the average Ontarian has access to.

"I really have empathy and a better understanding now of just how frustrating it must be when you feel you were on the receiving end of misconduct from police," he said.

"It is just so frustrating."