Moose Jaw police allege fired cop has decades-long history of misconduct, including assaults, deception
Alan Murdock appealing his dismissal and claims allegations by police service are ‘false'
The Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) fired officer Alan Murdock a year ago, alleging a list of offences that a police misconduct expert calls the most extensive he's ever seen in this country.
Murdock, a 29-year veteran of the MJPS, is appealing the dismissal.
In a six-page document filed with the Saskatchewan Police Commission, MJPS Chief Rick Bourassa lays out 25 allegations which include assaults, attempted fraud, inappropriate behaviour with a minor, habitually providing misleading information, unsafe storage of firearms and inappropriate physical contact with a female co-worker.
Murdock, who held the rank of constable when he was fired, declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a brief phone conversation he told CBC News the allegations were "false." In Murdock's appeal application he says the chief's decision to fire him was "excessive, unwarranted, unnecessary and inappropriate."
Taylor Elder, the president of the Moose Jaw Police Association, said the union paid for independent legal counsel to review Murdock's dismissal.
"After thoughtful review and consultation with legal counsel, our members chose not to support Mr. Murdock in his appeal to be reinstated," Elder said via email.
Murdock does not have a lawyer. He is representing himself.
The case will be argued during a three-week hearing at the end of August.
'Why wasn't he fired many years ago?'
Tom Engel, a prominent Edmonton lawyer who specializes in police accountability issues, has reviewed the chief's allegations and Murdock's reply.
He said that by Canadian standards, this situation is extraordinary due to the quantity and scope of the allegations and the almost 30-year time frame.
"I don't know if I'd be able to remember a case as serious as this in Canada," Engel said.
He said that no matter where the truth lies in this dispute, it's not likely to end well for the MJPS.
If Murdock is found to be in the right and many of the allegations against him were trumped-up or embellished, Engel said, the tables could be turned on Bourassa.
"If these things are false and the chief knows it, he could be fired under the Police [Services] Act and could even be criminally charged with obstruction of justice," said Engel.
On the other hand, Engel said, if the allegations dating back years are proven, the obvious question is why the MJPS is just raising them now.
"I'm sure any citizen of Moose Jaw would have this question too," Engel said.
"Why wasn't he fired many years ago?"
The alleged offences are said to have occurred under the watch of three chiefs.
Terry Coleman was chief from 1997 until 2007, when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing in the newly formed Saskatchewan Party government.
He told CBC News that he thinks he handled the discipline of Murdock in an appropriate manner. Although the list of allegations has not been tested before the hearing officer, Coleman says based on Bourassa's claims alone, "I think I would have taken steps to dismiss him much earlier than what they did."
Dale Larsen was chief of the MJPS from 2007 until 2013, when he was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice, Corrections and Policing. He is now Deputy Minister of Corrections and Policing.
A government spokesperson said via email it would be inappropriate for Larsen to comment.
Why no criminal charges?
According to a provincial court official, who conducted a search back to the early 1990s, it does not appear Murdock has been charged with any crime.
Engel wondered how that could be given all the allegations by the chief and the MJPS.
He said many of the chief's claims — such as assaults, theft, obstruction of justice, unsafe storage of a firearm and attempted fraud — would likely result in criminal charges if they were alleged against an ordinary citizen.
"If they believe [the order of dismissal] to be true, that means in many of these instances they have reasonable grounds to believe that criminal offences were committed," Engel said.
"Why didn't you charge this officer criminally?"
CBC News put that question to Bourassa.
"We are continuing to investigate," he said. "I can't go any further than that because we just don't, never really speak about ongoing investigations."
'Untrue information' in reports: chief
Engel said one allegation stands out as especially troubling, if true.
In his order of dismissal, the chief tells Murdock: "You entered untrue information into your reports regarding incidents that you were involved in."
When CBC News pressed the chief about what sorts of incidents he was referring to, he said they were "in response to calls for service," though he wouldn't provide any further details or examples.
"We have done a number of reviews of all the information," Bourassa said. "We have made notifications where we should have made notifications, and we are continuing some of those reviews and investigations."
He said the MJPS is looking at "what other impacts there may have been and what we have to do to correct those."
Engel said while the chief is being vague, the issues he is raising could be very serious if the incidents involve members of the general public.
"There may be wrongful convictions that need to be fixed if this officer's credibility and reliability was a factor in a prosecution."
The issue of Murdock's conduct came to a head last year as police were sorting through a case of mistaken identity.
Brendan Olynik arrived back in Canada on Nov. 5, 2018, after a holiday in New Orleans.
He says as he went through customs at Toronto's Pearson Airport, border officers started questioning him repeatedly about his background and told him his name was associated with a crime in Saskatchewan.
"What the hell is going on here?" Olynik, who at the time worked as a civilian analyst with the RCMP's forensic labs in Ottawa, remembered thinking.
He told the officers they might be confusing him with someone else and offered them his identification.
"They said 'Nope. Your exact information matches up with a Saskatchewan-wide arrest warrant,'" Olynik said.
"So I'm freaking out."
The border agents let Olynik into the country but said he needed to clear the matter up. He contacted the MJPS and he says they quickly realized they made a mistake.
Olynik filed a complaint with Saskatchewan's Public Complaints Commission (PCC) which concluded Murdock had conducted an "inadequate investigation" of an assault.
"There was a failure within the MJPS to ensure the investigation the officer submitted requesting a warrant contained the necessary information and evidence," the PCC wrote to Olynik on July 9, 2019.
The assault investigation happened in April 2018. A complainant named the suspect as Brendan Olynik but wasn't specific about the spelling.
"Although there were persons with similar names on the MJPS database, the officer [Murdock] centred on your name for no discernible reason," the PCC found. "Although the MJPS had you listed on reports as being employed by the RCMP, the officer did not attempt to make contact with you through the RCMP."
Murdock was suspended on May 22, 2019, and put on a 12-month probation. Court records show Murdock consented to the remedial discipline.
The PCC also took Murdock's supervisor, who is not named in the report, to task for inadequate oversight of the file. Bourassa told CBC News he couldn't recall whether the supervisor was disciplined but that, "the matter was addressed."
According to Bourassa, Murdock committed another infraction just over a week after that discipline was imposed.
In an affidavit, Bourassa said that on May 31, 2019, Murdock disobeyed a direct order to contain privacy breaches.
The chief alleges Murdock committed a second offence while on probation, on June 19, 2019.
According to Bourassa, Murdock "provided misleading, false and inaccurate statements" in an interview for an internal investigation into his misconduct.
The chief said that because of these two offences while on probation, he served Murdock with the order of dismissal that same day.
In his notice of appeal, Murdock said the MJPS failed to make any effort to offer treatment, training or coaching during his probation.
He also questioned the timing of his dismissal, coming just three minutes after the end of that June 19 interview.
Of 25 points on the dismissal order, the second one states: "You did provide false information during an internal investigation on today's date."
Engel also questions the timing of Murdock being served with such a lengthy document on the day of this alleged infraction.
"If they've already got the notice of dismissal written up except for that last item — number two — that's what's called pre-judgment or prejudice," said Engel. "He went into the interview and they'd already decided they were going to fire him."
The chief attempted to block Murdock's effort to appeal his dismissal.
The MJPS claimed that because Murdock was on probation when he was fired, he should be deemed a "probationary member," which would mean he had no right of appeal.
The hearing officer dismissed the chief's arguments, allowing the appeal to proceed.
History of alleged misconduct
In his letter dismissing Murdock, Bourassa included a list of allegations dating back to 1998. Bourassa said Murdock had already been disciplined in some cases:
1998: Harassment of a private citizen.
1999: Unnecessary and excessive use of OC (pepper) spray.
2003: Inappropriate physical contact with female co-worker.
2012: Inappropriate text messages with a 15-year-old girl.
2012: Failing to properly store and dispose of exhibits including "storing exhibits on personal computer and taking them home."
Other allegations don't have specific dates attached to them. Murdoch has responded to many of these claims in his notice of appeal.
Allegation: "You have subjected your step-children to physical assaults."
Response: Murdock acknowledges that in 1997 there was an allegation he assaulted one of his step-sons but an investigation found the evidence couldn't establish that the spanking was unreasonable. He said there was an allegation in 2007 that he assaulted another step-son by "putting the boy on the floor and holding him there for 30 seconds." But he notes "neither of these incidents resulted in police discipline charges or criminal charges."
Allegation: "You have engaged in inappropriate behaviour with a minor."
Response: Murdock said this case involved a 15-year-old friend of his daughter's, indicating she sent him a text message in 2011. The details he describes are unclear but, "he denies that he initiated any inappropriate contact or communication with a minor."
Allegation: "You did fail to return videos containing child pornography to the exhibit containment area."
Response: Murdock said someone else moved the videos. He pointed out he had already been investigated and disciplined in 2012 for his handling of other exhibits. He said that discipline was expunged from his record by the chief in 2014.
Allegation: "You did violate the provisions of the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Privacy Act by accessing other people's personal data without lawful purpose."
Response: Murdock said a senior officer told him he may have violated the act. Murdock said he answered all questions honestly and took remedial training on his own time.
Allegation: "You habitually provide misleading, false and inaccurate statements to interviewers in internal investigations."
Response: Murdock said he has never intentionally provided false information, and if he had, it was inadvertent.
Allegation: "You have subjected your female co-workers to inappropriate remarks and physical contact in the workplace and continue to do so."
Response: Murdock acknowledges that in 1991 he kissed a female cleaning staff employee, stating "he believed that this was something which they had mutually agreed to. He was told it was not acceptable, and the conduct was not repeated."
Further, he acknowledged that a civilian employee of the police service was "uncomfortable around him as a result of an inappropriate comment." He said he apologized.
New allegations emerge
Bourassa said a series of new issues came to his attention after Murdock was fired. They were submitted as an amendment to the original order and include:
"You did remove or retain evidence in the form of drugs and alcohol."
"You regularly stored your firearm in an unsafe manner."
"You attempted to have an RCMP officer provide a fraudulent receipt for your own financial gain."
"You were oppressive or abusive in conduct or language towards other members of the service including physical assaults of multiple members by means of 'bodychecks' and hitting members with objects."
"You did, on more than one occasion, turn off the in-car video system, contrary to protocol.
"You did not follow proper procedure when dealing with victims of domestic assault and did discourage them from filing reports/statements or pursuing charges."
As these allegations were filed more recently, Murdock has not yet filed his response to them.
Public inquiry required, Engel says
Engel says no matter what happens in the appeal hearing, this entire matter must go to a public inquiry.
"The curtain has to be pulled back on this aspect of how the Moose Jaw Police Service operates," he said.
He said this case raises many questions about how police handled Murdock's file, and he noted that Bourassa's and Murdock's versions of events are often "diametrically opposed."
He said it's unlikely all of the key issues will be aired in Murdock's upcoming hearing.
He said regardless of whether Bourasssa or Murdock is telling the truth, "there has to be a public inquiry because the public needs to know how the oversight of police officers, how the accountability of police officers for misconduct is handled by their police service."
If the allegations against Murdock are sustained, he said, this will not be a story about "one bad apple."
"He's surrounded by bad apples who do nothing, who have done nothing, to stop it. And they're part of the problem," said Engel. "It's a systemic problem in this police service."
He said this story is all too familiar in Canadian policing.
"There are crimes committed by officers and nothing is done about it except for maybe a slap on the wrist," he said.
"[Police services] have this misguided belief that if they sweep it under the carpet, that will protect their reputation — when it's exactly the opposite," said Engel.