2 more Winnipeg police officers charged with impaired driving
Chief Danny Smyth said Wednesday police had told media about all officers facing charges
CBC News has learned that the Winnipeg Police Service's protocol of making public the names of officers charged with criminal offences was not followed at least three times this year.
Two more officers are charged with impaired driving. A third is facing other serious charges.
The Winnipeg police have been under scrutiny since a fatal hit-and-run in October that saw off-duty officer Const. Justin Holz charged with a number of offences, including driving while intoxicated, in connection to the death of 23-year-old Cody Severight.
In November, two other officers were arrested for impaired driving.
All this prompted police Chief Danny Smyth to make a statement on Wednesday reassuring the public about the force's commitment to transparency when one of their own is charged. He said WPS is reviewing its policy, but there is no indication of what that policy currently is.
"Certainly our protocols; we inform the board, we inform the administration. We certainly inform the IIU when these things occur," he told media at a press conference Wednesday. The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) is Manitoba's police watchdog
And Smyth was unequivocal about the public being told as well.
"When charges are laid ... we release publicly ... we do that with everyone, not just police officers."
Did not inform the public
But CBC News has learned of two cases where officers were charged with impaired driving this year where the police did not inform the public.
I grant that on this one, it looks like I failed to — it makes it look like I'm covering up, when I'm not really trying to.- Danny Smyth, Winnipeg police chief
In another case an officer was charged with serious criminal offences, but it was not disclosed.
On Friday, Smyth told CBC News he made a mistake.
"It would be a lesson learned here for me today after you have your story, that, be careful when you say always, because clearly I made a mistake here," he said, adding that he thought information about all of the incidents had been released.
"I grant that on this one, it looks like I failed to — it makes it look like I'm covering up, when I'm not really trying to," Smyth said.
Did not tell police board, either
But it's not just the public that wasn't informed. CBC News has learned that, in all three cases, the police service didn't inform the police board. The IIU was informed about the charges.
Smyth said Friday the WPS is now re-evaluating what it should say, to whom, and when, after officer is charged.
"It isn't a real policy, if you will," he said. "It is something that I have a discussion with the chair of the board and going forward we will try and tighten up what the expectations are around notification."
Smyth said, however, that part of the reason for his misstatements might have been a rush to get information out.
"Earlier this week I went out and released something before charges were even laid. That's something we generally don't do — for anyone, let alone police officers. But maybe we need to revisit that. Maybe it is in the public interest to know something the instant it happens," he said.
"The problem with going out hastily is you're prone to making a mistake and that's exactly what I did."
The name of an officer, who was arrested on Nov. 20 and is also facing drunk driving charges, has not been released yet because he has not been formally charged.
At Wednesday's press conference Smyth also said it was "protocol" to tell city administration when an officer is charged with a crime.
CBC News has contacted the city to find out whether or not that happened in the three latest cases, but hasn't received a response.
Late Friday afternoon, police released the names of officers currently facing impaired driving charges.
The officers charged include:
- Jason Garrett, a 28-year member of the service, arrested by the RCMP in February 2017;
- Andrew Tighe, a 23-year member of the service, arrested by the WPS in June 2017;
- Mike Hawley, an eight-year member of the service, arrested by the WPS Nov. 26, 2017;
- Justin Holz, an eight-year member of the service, arrested by the WPS in October 2017.
- The officer arrested on Nov. 20 by the RCMP in the Headingley area has not yet been charged.
12 officers charged since 2005
In total, police say 12 officers have been charged with impaired driving since 2005, including those five officers facing charges in 2017.
Smyth says there are more officers who are facing charges other than impaired driving who haven't been named publicly — some he says for good reasons, such as to protect the victim.
Going forward, Winnipeg's police chief says he'll consider whether it's a good idea for the force to acknowledge an officer has been charged in every case, and not disclose a name in cases where it is sensitive.
"Clearly on the drinking and driving, I can see that for many, there's a perception that our organization has a problem. And I've been adamant about that, that I don't think our organization has a problem, but there are some individuals within our organization that have problems," Smyth said.
"But that's a perception that we will need to work on."