Thunder Bay police board to decide whether to hold hearings for officers over Stacy DeBungee investigation
Grounds for neglect of duty Police Services Act charges against 3 officers, review director finds
The police services board in Thunder Bay, Ont., is scheduled to meet next month to decide whether three officers who were involved in the investigation into the death of Stacy DeBungee will face disciplinary proceedings under the Police Services Act.
An investigation by Ontario's Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) into DeBungee's case found grounds for neglect of duty charges against three officers. Allegations of discreditable conduct against two of the officers are also "substantiated," according to the civilian watchdog's probe.
The officers can't be served with notices of hearing, however, because the police review director's investigation took more than six months to complete. Provincial regulations state that it's now up to the board to decide whether the delay was reasonable and whether hearings will be held.
A spokesperson with the OIPRD confirmed the director's office has, through Police Chief J.P. Levesque, applied to the board to pursue disciplinary hearings.
DeBungee, 41, was found dead in Thunder Bay's McIntyre River in the fall of 2015. Thunder Bay police publicly determined the next day that the Rainy River First Nations man's death was "non-criminal."
DeBungee's brother and community leadership subsequently called for the police review director to look at how the case was handled after their own investigation found the Thunder Bay Police Service's efforts lacking. The OIPRD's probe flagged several examples of important leads that were ignored or neglected by police.
The review stated there was "overwhelming" evidence that the two main detectives on the case "prematurely concluded that DeBungee rolled into the river and drowned." It also concludes racism may have influenced how they handled the investigation.
The OIPRD's review of how police treated DeBungee's death was separate from another ongoing one by the civilian oversight body into allegations of systemic racism over the way the force treats the deaths of Indigenous people.
That investigation is expected to be completed by the summer.
The Police Services Act states that an officer is guilty of neglect of duty if he or she "neglects or omits promptly and diligently to perform a duty as a member of [a] police force."
Discreditable conduct means an officer "fails to treat or protect persons equally without discrimination," because of one or more of a number of criteria, including race, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
With files from The Fifth Estate and Jody Porter