Report questions East St. Paul's handling of investigations

More allegations of impropriety are being levelled against the East St. Paul police force, this time over the way the former chief of police handled some investigations.

More allegations of impropriety are being levelled against the East St. Paul police force, this time over the way the former chief of police handled some investigations.

The council in the rural municipality, just north of Winnipeg, hired retired RCMP officer Robert Tramley to review the nine-member police department's operations earlier this year.

While Tramley's report has not been made public, CBC News has learnedit includes examination of an unusually high number of complaints about officers' conduct and allegations that some officers used department computers to download pornography.

CBC News has learned Tramley also focused his attention on East St. Paul's former police chief, Harry Bakema, a retired Winnipeg police sergeant.

Tramley wrote that when Bakema conducted some investigations, he required only "minimal note-taking" and showed "a lack of interest in promoting the rights of suspects with junior officers."

RCMP examines accident investigation

Tramley also examined the East St. Paul police department's investigation of a traffic accident in February 2005 in which a 40-year-old woman was killed when her car was rear-ended by a pickup truck.

An off-duty Winnipeg police officer was charged with a number of offences, including impaired driving causing death. Bakema was in charge of the investigation.

In his report, Tramley referred to a "lack of investigative professionalism," a delay in getting the driver to the police station and police neglect of charter rights, which, Tramley added, could be "problematic when this case goes to trial."

The Winnipeg officer involved in the accident is on unpaid leave, pending the outcome of the case.

RCMP Cpl. Chris Ballard said the Mounties are now involved in the investigation.

"In early May, Manitoba Justice requested that RCMP investigate how the East St. Paul police department investigated that particular accident," he said.

Bakema was dismissed from his post four months ago.When contacted Thursday, he refused to comment.

Constable a 'common thread' in complaints

Tramley's report also focused attention onKen Graham, a former constable on the force.Graham's name turned up in connection with a several complaints about police conduct, Tramley said.

"A common thread through all the complaints is the rampant abuse of authority by Const. Graham," Tramley wrote,noting the constable "either does not know the bounds of the authority vested in him as a peace officer, or he simply chooses to ignore those restraints whenever it suits him."

Tramley added that when Graham's authority is "questioned by a potential violator or suspect, the resultant reaction can be violent."

Graham resigned from the forcein March. CBC spoke with him briefly this week;he saidhe has moved on to bigger and better things.

Current East St. Paul police Chief Norm Carter would not comment specifically on Graham, but said the police force is following all of the recommendations in Tramley's report, including implementing improvements to the recruiting system for new officers.

Municipal administrator dismissed

Tramley would not comment on the contents of his report.

But he said he was saddened and shocked to learn that two days ago, municipal council fired the municipality's chief administrator, the man who hired him to conduct the review in the first place.

"Had it not been for him trying to do the right thing, perhaps things would be worse," Tramley told CBC news.

Former chief administrative officer Jerome Mauws was fired during a special meeting of East St. Paul councillors earlier this week.

Mauws said he was shocked by the news since he had recently had his contract renewed and was given a raise.He had heard no complaints about his work, he said, but believes his role in trying to clean up the police force — including his decision to fire Bakema —may have led to his dismissal.

"I think it was a matter of they didn't agree on the disciplinary action that was taken with the decision of council," Mauws told CBC News. "Some councillors were in favour. Some council members were opposed.I did what the majority of council wanted done."

Mike Wasylin, one of two councillors who voted to keep Mauws, is dismayed with the actions of the three councillors who voted to dismiss him. Wasylin said he still hasn't heard a satisfactory reason for Mauws' dismissal.

"I think that the action taken in this manner, through an inappropriate process and I think in a very unfair manner, has put us at significant financial risk," he said.

Mauws said he plans to take legal action against East St. Paul. The municipality has hired a lawyer to deal with the situation.

The councillors who voted to dismiss Mauws refused to discuss the matter with CBC.