Toronto

Durham police chief welcomes 'unbiased inquiry' amid allegations of misconduct within top brass

On the heels of an investigation by Ontario's police watchdog into the Durham Region Police Service, the force's chief says he welcomes an inquiry into allegations of improper conduct and says his "deepest regret is the damage being done to the reputations" of members of the service.

Chief Paul Martin says force hasn't seen official complaints, later says claims have already been investigated

Chief Paul Martin said in a statement Monday that he was only informed of the investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission on Friday. (CBC)

On the heels of an investigation by Ontario's police watchdog into the Durham Region Police Service, the force's chief says he welcomes an inquiry into "historic" allegations of improper conduct and says his "deepest regret is the damage being done to the reputations" of members of the service.

Chief Paul Martin said in a statement Monday that he was only informed of the investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) on Friday.

The statement goes on to say Martin has yet to see the details of any allegations and has not received documents detailing the complaints, despite asking for them, along with the Durham Police Services Board, for months.

Later in the statement, Martin says, "it is unfortunate that policing resources must once again be expended, much of it on claims that have already been investigated."

The statement comes the same day CBC News reported that Durham's deputy chief, Uday Jaswal, won't take a turn as interim chief of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) this summer as planned. Jaswal was slated to temporarily fill that position in July.

An OCPC report details allegations that Jaswal "acted in an overbearing, intimidating, harassing and/or tyrannical manner toward both sworn and civilian members of the police service" while working as Durham's deputy chief.

Claims of 'corruption, criminality'

On Friday, Ontario's solicitor general's office announced the province had appointed an administrator to oversee the service amid an investigation into allegations against it. 

Lawyer Peter Brauti, who is representing the seven official complainants, told CBC News the allegations have to do with "corruption, criminality and serious misconduct," including bullying and intimidation among members of the top brass, including the chief. The investigation also extends to the Durham Regional Police Services Board.

The allegations have to do with 'corruption, criminality and serious misconduct,' including bullying and intimidation among members of the top brass, according to lawyer Peter Brauti. (CBC News)

The allegations against the force are contained in an order signed last Thursday by the commission's executive director, Linda Lamoureux.

The preliminary findings allege the "senior administration allowed, tolerated, encouraged, participated in, and/or was wilfully blind to workplace harassment of all kinds, intimidation of subordinates, retaliatory discipline, and potential alleged criminal conduct and/or misconduct under the (Police Services Act)."

The order also said the commission has received "credible information" that suggests the force's leadership "might have
covered up [and] attempted to cover-up" alleged misconduct towards subordinates and that "they may have interfered in previous external and internal investigations."

The commission outlined 15 areas it will investigate, including whether the board had "appropriate oversight" over the hiring and contract extensions of senior leadership; whether a senior officer provided false testimony to gain favour with the chief, and whether the chief and the chief administrative officer "improperly influenced and/or prevented investigations into alleged violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act."

"The allegations of misconduct have a tangible negative impact on policing and, consequently, the communities that the service and board serve," Lamoureux wrote.

"The crisis of confidence within the service constitutes an emergency, and that the appointment of an administrator ... is necessary in the public interest."

Chief says he welcomes inquiry

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. Brauti said Federico is being given some of the chief's "powers and authorities" and will be exercising them "instead of the chief."

Brauti says the complaints date back to the fall of 2018, when a number of police officers with "significant seniority" came forward with allegations about top members of the force. Additional officers came forward in November and December 2018, and more still in 2019.

In all, the seven complainants include sergeants, inspectors and superintendents with some off work on stress leave, others retired and some still active with the force, Brauti said.

"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, adding the investigation could last up to a year. 

A spokesperson for Ontario's solicitor general would not confirm that the chief's powers had been curtailed or that Federico is overseeing the agency.

"No one has been relieved of their duties," Marion Isabeau Ringuette said in a statement Friday.

"I will do my best to ensure this is the last time [the allegations] can be resurrected, and that this is done as fairly and without bias as possible, to remove this unfair shadow over the men and women who serve, with distinction, the communities in Durham Region," Martin said Monday.

"I welcome an open, transparent and unbiased inquiry,"

With files from The Canadian Press

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