New Brunswick

Const. Jeff Smiley dismissed from Fredericton Police Force

An arbitrator for the New Brunswick Police Commission has ordered that Const. Jeff Smiley be dismissed from the Fredericton Police Force.

Smiley's career in law enforcement in New Brunswick 'is definitely done,' said police commission

Const. Jeff Smiley has been ordered dismissed from the Fredericton Police Force by an arbitrator of the New Brunswick Police Commission. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

An arbitrator has ordered that Const. Jeff Smiley be dismissed from the Fredericton Police Force over four counts of breaching professional conduct standards for police officers. 

The ruling comes after a four-day arbitration hearing in November that pitted the New Brunswick Police Commission against Smiley.

The complaint against Smiley was made by Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch.

Smiley was facing four counts of breaching the code of professional conduct for police:

  • Discreditable conduct by committing domestic violence
  • Counselling a fellow officer to not disclose he had firearms in his possession
  • Two counts of improper use and care of firearms

Fitch said in a statement on Wednesday that the arbitrator made a "fair decision."

"This situation has affected the department, and a number of officers for quite some time, and there is a shared sense of relief that the arbitration process has been brought to a conclusion," Fitch's statement said.

"This decision sends an important message that police officers are not above the law and the due process and procedural fairness is critical to maintaining trust and respect in, and for the policing profession."

New precedent set

Although police officers have faced police commission hearings for domestic violence before, none of them were ordered to be dismissed over it, said Steve Roberge, the executive director of the police commission.

"This sets a new precedent as to where we are going to be heading with respect to any criminality of police officers," said Roberge.

Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch said in a statement on Wednesday that the arbitrator made a "fair decision" in the Smiley case. (CBC)
"It's always been the perspective of the chiefs of police, the civic authorities and the police commission that there is to be very little tolerance for the criminality of police officers," he said.

"When police officers are involved in crime, such as domestic partner violence, there is zero tolerance for that."

Roberge said the message coming out of the ruling is police officers are going to be held to a higher standard of accountability.

"It has been the standard sought in the past and it has not always been successful," said Roberge. "Criminality has been involved. We've had no choice in this matter."

"We take no joy in the fact that we've had to dismiss a police officer," said Roberge.

We take no joy in the fact that we've had to dismiss a police officer.- Steve Roberge, executive director New Brunswick Police Commission

In his 51-page decision, Cedric Haines, the arbitrator, reviewed the hearing's testimony.

Kimberly Burnett, the constable's common law wife, initially made the domestic violence complaint against Smiley to the police. However, Burnett and Smiley have reunited and she attended the hearing with him and testified in his defence.

Burnett told the hearing she didn't object to the manner in which Smiley touched her.

Haines said in his ruling that the evidence establishes, on a balance of probabilities, that on "numerous occasions" Smiley was involved in domestic violence situations with Burnett.

"The actions of Constable Smiley are inconsistent with what Ms.Burnett described in her cross-examination as having been done in a loving and caring way," states the decision.

"The actions of Constable Smiley in restraining Ms.Burnett were on more than one occasion unwanted and unsolicited by her and continued despite her requesting that they cease. These actions, when viewed in the context of all the evidence of his relationship with Ms. Burnett, amount to attempts by Constable Smiley to dominate and control Ms. Burnett and constitute domestic assault."

Haines noted that since Burnett had got back together with Smiley, she had an interest in the outcome of the hearing.

"The testimony of Ms. Burnett at the hearing of this matter was not in harmony with the preponderance of probabilities which a practical and informed person would find reasonable given the particular place and conditions of the matter before me," wrote Haines.

'A very clear message'

Roberge said Haines's ruling "sends a very clear message" about domestic violence.

"Police are required to be trustworthy and are now double held to account," said Roberge, citing a legal case that now requires police to hand over records of the discipline and misconduct of its officers as part of its disclosure obligation to the defence in criminal proceedings.

RAW: Steve Roberge on Jeff Smiley

7 years ago
Duration 2:40
N.B. Police Commission official discusses dismissal of Fredericton police officer

"This case law will significantly challenge the day-to-day operations of any police officer whose credibility has been brought into question by a Police Act disciplinary process."

A criminal assault charge against Smiley was dismissed earlier over a jurisdictional issue as the assault in question in the case was alleged to have happened in Nova Scotia, so Fredericton police didn't have authority to investigate it and recommend charges.

Smiley has been suspended with pay since his arrest on the criminal domestic assault charge in February 2014.

The ruling can not be appealed. However, Smiley could seek a judicial review of the arbitrator's decision.

Roberge said Smiley's career in law enforcement in New Brunswick "is definitely done."