Sudbury police officers Christopher Labreche and Kathryn Howard demoted for benefits fraud

Two Sudbury police officers have been demoted after confessing to defrauding their workplace benefit program.

Married couple will see a combined salary cut of over $100,000

Sudbury Police Constable Christopher Labreche appears in a Greater Sudbury Police Service promotional video. (GSPS/YouTube)

Two Sudbury police officers have been demoted after confessing to defrauding their workplace benefit program.

Constable Christopher Labreche and Constable Kathryn Howard, who are also husband and wife, were sentenced for police misconduct earlier in a hearing held at Tom Davies Square Monday morning. 

They billed their insurance company over $3,000 for medical services like vision care, massage therapy and chiropractic treatments that they never received.

Both officers will be temporarily demoted, which between them will amount to a salary cut of over $100,000 this year. 

Inspector Robert Gould, the tribunal adjudicator, called the case "troubling."

"Often officers don't get a second chance," he said.

"Make the best of it."

Sudbury police constables Kathryn Howard and Christopher Labreche arrive for their disciplinary hearing at Tom Davies Square. (Erik White/CBC)

The tribunal heard that the couple made 29 false claims to the city's benefits provider, while they were facing "difficult personal and financial pressures."

Constable Howard, who's served Sudbury police since 2004, wiped away tears as she apologized to the police department and remembered how difficult it was to have one of her mentors at the police force investigate her actions.

"It hasn't been easy," Howard said, her voice cracking.

"I can promise you will never see me in front of this tribunal ever again."

Howard, who will be demoted to from a 1st class to a 2nd class constable for one year, said she now plans to "go and do what I love to do and that's protect our community."

'I've been an upstanding police officer'

Her husband Christopher Labreche made a similar apology moments earlier.

"I'm extremely remorseful. This has brought embarrassment not only to myself and my family, to the entire organization," said Labreche, who joined the Sudbury police in 2009, but served in Toronto before that.

"It's not a true reflection of my character. I've been an upstanding police officer my entire career."

The police association talked about Labreche's excellent service record and noted the time he spends in the community volunteering with scout groups and hockey teams.

But it was only later noted that he was disciplined last year and docked 96 hours pay for a "variety of counts"—  details of which are not made public because it was an "informal discipline" process handled within the police department.

It also wasn't mentioned that Labreche was charged with assault in 2014 for pushing the head of a suspect into a window. The case garnered national media attention before the charges were dismissed last year.

That previous discipline is one of the reasons Labreche, who also pleaded guilty to criminal fraud in this case in September, received a stiffer penalty than his wife.

He has been demoted to 4th class constable, an annual pay cut of $32,000 and has three years before he is restored to 1st class status.

'Respect, Honesty and Integrity'

Prosecutor David Migicovski told the tribunal that Labreche's past is "more checkered" but lauded him for taking responsibility for his actions.

"This isn't misconduct that's attributable to a single error in judgement or a mistake,"​ he said.

"The penalty should be serious and severe, but recognize their continued usefulness to the service."

Both the police department and the police association agreed on the penalty, seeing demotion as more appropriate than firing the two officers.

Sergeant Marc Brunette, who speaks for Sudbury police, says the force knows that some in the public will question why Labreche and Howard get to keep their badges.

"Nonetheless, we have confidence in the system that governs the discipline in our service and the membership will continue to serve with respect, with honesty and with integrity," Brunette said.

Labreche and Howard will now have to disclose this conviction whenever they are called to testify in court as police officers.