Manitoba

Chief didn't investigate altered notes on fatal crash: inquiry

The chief of the East St. Paul Police admitted at an inquiry Thursday morning that he didn't do all he could in the case of Derek Harvey-Zenk, an off-duty Winnipeg police officer who was involved in a fatal car crash in 2005.
Norm Carter, now chief of the East St. Paul Police Department, was a sergeant at the time of the crash that killed Crystal Taman. ((CBC))
The chief of the East St. Paul Police admitted at an inquiry Thursday morning that he didn't do all he could in the case of Derek Harvey-Zenk, an off-duty Winnipeg police officer who was  involved in a fatal car crash in 2005.

Chief Norm Carter, who was a sergeant at the time of the February 2005 crash that killed Crystal Ann Taman, 40, was not at the scene of the collision, but processed Harvey-Zenk when he arrived at the police station.

Carter arrested and processed Harvey-Zenk, whose car rear-ended Taman's vehicle while the mother of three was stopped at a traffic light at the Perimeter Highway and Highway 59 on the morning of Feb. 25, 2005.

Carter testified Thursday that after his first meeting with Crown prosecutor Marty Minuk, which took place a year after Taman was killed, a police officer who was at the scene of the crash, Const. Jason Woychuk, told him that then-chief Harry Bakema had instructed him to change his notes to match those of the chief and another constable.

Carter said Woychuk also told him that the chief had indicated Harvey-Zenk had been drunk at the time of the collision.

But Carter admitted on the stand that he did nothing about Woychuk's revelation, even though it could have suggested obstruction of justice by investigating officers in Harvey-Zenk's case.

He did not launch a separate investigation into the matter, he said, and he didn't mention the discussion to the Crown until two months later. 

When he finally did so, he testified Minuk seemed surprised, even shocked, and the prosecutor said the RCMP would look into it.

Chief changed report

A police photo shows Crystal Taman's car after the crash on Feb. 25, 2005. ((Taman Inquiry))
At that time, the investigation of the case against Harvey-Zenk seemed to stop.

Carter admitted he didn't do anything to carry out instructions from Minuk to execute a search warrant  at a Branigan's restaurant where Harvey-Zenk was among a group of  Winnipeg police officers drinking the night before the crash.

On Wednesday, Carter told the inquiry that he noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Harvey-Zenk when he was being processed at the station.

He also told the inquiry he wrote an incident report the day of the crash, and later found it had been "deleted and re-entered by Chief Bakema."

At least one paragraph had been removed, Carter said, and he didn't press the chief as to why.

Carter said Harvey-Zenk didn't file a standard traffic accident report until more than a month after the crash, even though the province's Highway Traffic Act requires anyone who is in an accident to file one no more than seven days after the event.

Bakema had been expected to take the stand Thursday, but delays could push his appearance to next week.

Former Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk was convicted of dangerous driving causing death in the crash that killed Crystal Taman. ((Taman Inquiry))
Harvey-Zenk, also known as Derek Harveymordenzenk, was initially charged with refusing a breathalyzer test, impaired driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death, but those charges were dropped without explanation when he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

He received a conditional sentence of two years' house arrest and has since turned in his police badge.

The inquiry, led by former Ontario Superior Court justice Roger Salhany, first examined the treatment of the Taman family by the court system and victims' services. That portion of the inquiry wrapped up in June.

The inquiry is now looking at the conduct of police involved in the investigation into the crash that killed Taman. It will also examine the conduct of Harvey-Zenk and other Winnipeg police officers before the crash, and how lawyers arrived at the plea agreement that spared him time behind bars.

Salhany is scheduled to deliver a final report to Manitoba's attorney general by Sept. 30.

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