'We will not stand for this': OPP brass comments after 3 officers charged

Ontario Provincial Police's east region commander says vast majority of officers do exemplary work, after 18-month investigation into alleged criminal activity by police officers in Leeds County ends with three constables charged.

Colleagues helped investigation into alleged criminal activity by police in Leeds County

OPP Chief Supt. Daniel Redmond says OPP officers themselves came forward with information leading to charges against three constables with the force's Leeds County detachment. (Kate Porter/CBC Ottawa)

The senior Ontario Provincial Police officer for Eastern Ontario wants the public to trust the vast majority of officers he says do "exemplary" work every day, even if three long-time constables working out of the same Brockville detachment have been charged in an 18-month investigation into alleged criminal activity by police.

Chief Supt. Daniel Redmond said the fact the force conducted this kind of investigation and charged three of its own should help to build that public trust.

"As I hope you see with the charges today...we take this seriously," Redmond told a gathering of reporters Tuesday afternoon, addressing the charges laid against three officers in the last few weeks. "We will not stand for this inside our ranks."

Fellow OPP officers supplied information for Project Arrowtown, which has now concluded, said Redmond. The local Leeds County detachment, the OPP's organized crime enforcement bureau, and the OPP's professional standards bureau all helped in the investigation that led to the arrests, as did the RCMP and Montreal Police.

Eight civilians also face a range of charges, including trafficking marijuana and cocaine, and possession of the proceeds of crime.

The three officers charged during Project Arrowtown are:

  • Const. George Duke, 52, a 20-year member of the force. Duke, who is from Brockville, faces a number of charges including of theft over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, breach of trust, unlawful possession of a restricted firearm, unsafe storage of a firearm, unsafe storage of ammunition, possession of a firearm without a licence and possession of schedule two substance.
  • Const. Jason Redmond, 36, a 10-year OPP veteran from Lyn, Ont. Redmond has been charged with three counts of trafficking marijuana, forgery, breach of trust and obstruction of justice. He is not related to Chief Supt. Daniel Redmond.
  • Const. David Vogelzang, 41, a 16-year member of the force. Vogelzang, from Elizabethtown, Ont., has been charged with obstruction of justice. 

As per the Police Services Act, all three officers were suspended with pay after the charges were laid. 

Redmond noted that the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, of which his commissioner is a member, has been lobbying to have the province re-open that law and allow police services to suspend officers without pay in some serious cases. 

Both Duke and Vogelzang earned slightly more than $100,000 in 2014, according to Ontario's salary disclosures. 

Duke and Vogelzang do not have blemish-free service records. Duke was convicted in 2005 of discreditable conduct after a disciplinary hearing. Vogelzang too was found guilty of discreditable conduct and of unlawful or unnecessary use of force in a disciplinary hearing after an incident on Hwy. 401 in 2010, when he pulled over and handcuffed a motorist in an arrest an OPP adjudicator later deemed unlawful. 

At the same time, both Duke and Vogelzang were recognized in 2008 by being given Accolade Awards in the enforcement category. Those awards are handed out annually to officers for promoting compliance of the law or for providing quality service.

'We will not stand for this'

There is a culture of allegiance in law enforcement, Redmond acknowledged, which is important when officers' jobs can put them in harm's way.

Those bonds don't mean fellow officers will protect them in questionable circumstances, said Redmond, who promised the force would take action against any officer who abused their powers or broke the law.

And while he stated his support for the rest of the employees at the Leeds County detachment, the top officer said he's disappointed three officers are charged and face court dates in December and in January.

"We all take the same oath when we begin our careers in the OPP and I abide by that oath," said Redmond, emphasizing the vast majority of officers also abide by their oaths through to retirement.

The Project Arrowtown investigation was launched in May 2014. Police seized cocaine, marijuana and cash after executing search warrants at seven different locations in Front of Yonge Township — including five on County Road 5 near Mallorytown, Ont., within a two-minute drive of each other.