Toronto

Province appoints administrator to oversee Durham police amid allegations of 'serious misconduct'

An administrator has been bought in to oversee the Durham Regional Police Service as the province's oversight agency investigates allegations against the force as well as its police services board, according to a spokesperson for Ontario's solicitor general. 

Lawyer Peter Brauti, representing 7 complainants, calls move 'unprecedented'

Lawyer Peter Brauti says the complaints date back to Fall 2018, when a number of police officers with "significant seniority" came forward with allegations that had to do with bullying and intimidation within the Durham Region Police Service's top brass. (CBC News)

Ontario has appointed an administrator to oversee the Durham Regional Police Service amid an investigation into allegations of "corruption, criminality and serious misconduct" all the way up to Durham's police chief, a lawyer representing the complainants tells CBC News.

Lawyer Peter Brauti says the complaints date back to Fall 2018, when a number of police officers with "significant seniority" came forward with allegations that had to do with bullying and intimidation within the force's top brass, including Chief Paul Martin. Also being investigated is Durham's police services board.

CBC News reached out to Martin specifically as well as the Durham Regional Police Service for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

According to Brauti, the administrator being brought in to oversee the force is former veteran Toronto deputy police chief Mike Federico, who has some 45 years of experience on the job. 

Ex-Toronto deputy police chief to step in

"The administrator is going to be given a number of the powers and authorities that the chief formerly had and will be exercising those authorities instead of the chief," said Brauti. Exactly what powers the chief might be stripped of is unclear, Brauti said. 

After he was retained, Brauti says, more officers came forward and in November and December 2018, he started submitting their complaints to the solicitor general. Then in early 2019, further officers came forward, including sergeants, inspectors, superintendents. 

Brauti says the officers tried to escalate their complaints through formal channels before retaining him, but ultimately felt they were being dismissed, with the force "creating a culture of fear where people couldn't come forward," he said.

All told, there are a total of seven official complainants, Brauti said, including some who are off work on stress leave, others who are retired and some who are still active with the force. 

"What I can tell you is this: it is an unprecedented step by the government. This has never occurred before in the province of Ontario," Brauti said. 

CBC News reached out to Martin specifically as well as the Durham Regional Police Service for comment, but has yet to receive a response. (CBC)

Investigation could last up to a year

In a statement late Friday evening, the press secretary for Ontario's solicitor general, Marion Isabeau Ringuette, told CBC News the move follows concerns brought to the solicitor general, but did not elaborate on the nature of the concerns or when they surfaced. 

Ringuette would not confirm or deny reports that Durham's police chief's powers had been curtailed or that Federico is overseeing the agency. 

"As a result, the Solicitor General requested that the Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigate these allegations. No one has been relieved of their duties," the statement said.

Brauti was also unable to provide specifics of the allegations themselves, saying the Ontario Civilian Police Commission had requested that he not do so. 

The press secretary's statement goes on to say that the investigation by the OCPC "does not impact frontline policing services."

Ringuette added it would not be appropriate to comment further while the investigation is underway.

Brauti says the complainants still with the force are "cautiously optimistic" at this point, hoping for a change in leadership and culture.

He adds that given "the scope and how wide-reaching the complaints are," the investigation could last up to a year. 

 

With files from Salma Ibrahim and Shanifa Nasser