Ottawa

2 Ottawa constables demoted over phantom traffic warnings

Two Ottawa Police Service constables have been temporarily demoted for discreditable conduct after pleading guilty to issuing fake traffic warnings.
Ottawa Police say officers handed out tickets, then typed up written warnings for other infractions that either didn't occur at all or weren't communicated in any way to the drivers. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Two Ottawa Police Service constables have been temporarily demoted for discreditable conduct after pleading guilty to issuing fake traffic warnings.

The officers recorded that they had issued drivers Provincial Offence warnings like failure to produce proof of vehicle ownership, but later those same drivers told police officials that they had shown the constables the documents.

Unlike a Provincial Offence ticket for speeding, a Provincial Offence warning has no fine attached to it. 

The two constables pleaded guilty in December 2016 to charges under the Police Services Act.  This came after the Professional Standards Section conducted a quality assurance audit in November 2015 to verify if OPS members were properly warning drivers and using sound practices during traffic stops.

No notes on 55 offences

A 15-year veteran of the OPS, Const. Sean Ralph pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination. He is demoted for nine months from first- to second-class constable.

On several traffic stops he did issue Provincial Offence tickets for speeding and driving in a designated bus lane but he  failed to notify the driver of warnings for things like not having a valid sticker on a licence plate or disobeying a traffic sign.

In his ruling, read out at the hearing, the adjudicator, Supt. Chris Perkins of the Halton Regional Police, said over a period of 10 months in 2015, Ralph failed to make notes in his duty book concerning 55 provincial offences. 

"I'm troubled that no supervisor noticed he (Ralph) hadn't taken notes," said Perkins. "I find this somewhat incredible." 

In describing Ralph's behavior, Perkins added "the public would be shocked how he misrepresented the facts."

Demotions 'measured and appropriate' says adjudicator 

Const. Trevor Gunsolus pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and on Tuesday in an agreed statement of facts, he admitted on three separate traffic stops he recorded issuing warnings without informing the drivers of those warnings. Gunsolus did issue Provincial Offence tickets to these drivers for driving a car on a bike path and speeding.  

Gunsolus, a member of OPS since 2008, was demoted from first- to second-class constable for a period of four months.

The demotions mean a financial penalty of $12,384 for Const. Ralph and $5,504 for Const. Gunsolus.

Supt. Perkins called the penalties "measured and appropriate" but added both constables damaged their reputations and "tarnished the image of the Ottawa Police" because the cases garnered "wide media attention." 

He added the two must uphold honesty and integrity at a time when "the public trust with police remains fragile."

The officers were among 11 investigated after an audit of the police force's traffic warnings.

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