Ottawa

Ottawa constables plead guilty for issuing fake traffic warnings

Three Ottawa Police Service constables could face temporary demotions after pleading guilty to charges under the Police Services Act for issuing false traffic warnings.

Actions have 'tarnished' the police force's reputation, say prosecutors

An Ottawa Police Service cruiser is parked outside the force's professional standards section building on Dec. 19, 2016. Three OPS constables pleaded guilty to charges under the Police Services Act for issuing false traffic warnings. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Three Ottawa Police Service constables could face temporary demotions after pleading guilty to charges under the Police Services Act for issuing false traffic warnings.

Sean Ralph, Trevor Gunsolus and Paul Laforest all entered guilty pleas at separate disciplinary hearings Monday afternoon.

Ralph pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination, while Gunsolus pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct. 

Laforest pleaded guilty to a single count of discreditable conduct. 

Drivers disputed warnings

While the specifics of the individual incidents differ, generally the officers would pull over drivers for legitimate offences — like speeding, or failing to obey a traffic sign — and issue tickets, according to three separate agreed statements of facts.

They would then enter warnings into the police service's database for additional offences, like failing to show an insurance card or having a partially-obscured license plate.

However, an OPS internal investigation revealed the officers' duty books failed to show whether those warning tickets were actually handed out to the ticketed drivers.

As well, multiple drivers told investigators they never received the warnings entered in the database, according to the statements.

Laforest's charge related to warnings issued during one traffic stop, while Gunsolus was charged with issuing fraudulent warnings on three different occasions.

The OPS internal investigation revealed issues with seven of Ralph's traffic stops. It also found general problems with his notemaking practices.

The constables' questionable traffic stops all took place in 2016.

Three different OPS prosecutors each said Monday that the constables' actions had, in the eyes of the public, "tarnished" the force's reputation.

At least 7 officers convicted

Warning tickets provide police with a record of drivers who have violated road rules. They don't carry a fine. 

The OPS's professional standards section launched their internal investigation in November 2015 after 11 officers were accused of falsely boosting their warning ticket numbers.

The investigation has caused the force to re-evaluate its use of an officer's ticket statistics in giving promotions, Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau told CBC News earlier this year.

So far, at least seven Ottawa police officers have been convicted under the Police Services Act in connection with the warning ticket investigation.

Ralph, Gunsolus and Laforest now face temporary demotions to second-class constable for nine months, four months, and six weeks, respectively.

It's expected the disciplinary actions will be meted out at hearings scheduled for February.