Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin to step down amid inquiry into alleged misconduct

Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin announced his resignation Thursday afternoon, more than a year after the announcement of a corruption investigation into alleged "serious misconduct" on the force, possibly including the chief himself.

Martin to continue in role until September when police board chooses interim chief

Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin fought back tears as he spoke with CBC Toronto in November, 2019 about a controversial image shared on a Facebook page created by former members of the force. Martin called the image 'repulsive.' (CBC)

Durham Police Chief Paul Martin announced his resignation Thursday afternoon — more than a year after the announcement of an investigation into alleged "serious misconduct" on the force, possibly including the chief himself. 

Martin is expected to continue in his role until September, at which point Durham's police services board will appoint an interim chief. 

In a statement issued Thursday, Martin didn't mention the investigation, but said he is cognizant of the strides the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) has made over his years as chief. However, he said, "this year showed us how much more there is to do. 

"There was a time in policing where officers and leaders all looked like me, and though change has been slow in this regard, it has been made," he said. 

While Martin said he was part of the generation of police leaders that helped develop and implement a "change agenda" for policing — one that focused on "respect" and worked hard to bring "new faces and voices" to policing — 2020 turned out to be a "different kind of year," he wrote. 

"I thought that by 2020 we would be seeing some of the success of those many years of hard work by executive teams and the officers we lead and serve," he said. 

"But this year also showed us how much more there is to do." 

Resignation comes following inquiry into misconduct 

Martin did not give a specific reason why he's stepping down, but said "the timing is right for myself and my family." 

However, the announcement of his resignation comes after Ontario appointed an administrator to oversee the Durham Regional Police Service in May 2019 amid an investigation into allegations of "corruption, criminality and serious misconduct" including bullying and intimidation among members of the top brass, including the chief, according to a lawyer representing the complainants. 

At the time, Martin said he welcomed the inquiry into "historic" allegations of improper conduct and said his "deepest regret [was] the damage being done to the reputations" of members of the service.

The allegations against the force were contained in an order signed by Linda Lamoureux, executive director of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). 

The preliminary findings alleged 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 commission outlined 15 areas it would 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."

After learning of the investigation, Martin said he would ensure that it would be done "as fairly and without bias as possible." 

"I welcome an open, transparent and unbiased inquiry," Martin said in a statement issued three days after learning of the inquiry, on May 27. 

Durham police face questions over Dafonte Miller case

Questions were also raised over how Durham police handled the Dafonte Miller case and why it took so long for the province's Special Investigations Unit to be informed of the teen's alleged beating, for which a Toronto police officer has now been found guilty of assault

Julian Falconer, the lawyer of Miller's family, alleged that Durham police failed to investigate the case properly, saying they failed to get a statement from a credible eyewitness.

Miller was chased down a street and hit repeatedly with a steel pipe in Whitby on Dec. 28, 2016. He suffered a broken nose, jaw and wrist and was blinded in one eye.

Exactly six months later in July, 2017, Martin announced he had asked his deputy, Uday Jaswal, to launch an investigation into how his force handled the case

And in August of the same year, the force also launched a new procedure for notifying Ontario's police watchdog when an officer is involved in an incident. 

Watch | Durham police chief speaks to review of Dafonte Miller case in 2017 

Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin confirmed to CBC Toronto that he has asked his deputy, Uday Jaswal, to launch an investigation into how his force handled the case. 0:31

Toronto police officer Michael Theriault, who was off duty the night he confronted Miller, was convicted of assault in the case last month, but found not guilty of aggravated assault or obstruction of justice. The officer's brother, Christian Theriault, was acquitted of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

30 years with Durham police 

In a statement issued Thursday, the police services board said after more than 30 years with the force, Martin has ensured that "superior" police services were provided to citizens of the region. 

"He has fostered and nurtured partnerships with religious, cultural and racial communities across Durham Region to strengthen equity and inclusion in police practices," Kevin Ashe, the chair of the board, said in the statement.  

Ashe said many initiatives were introduced to improve policing during Martin's tenure, including Durham Connect, a program that addresses cases that are a high risk to community safety. 

"And the leadership cadre of the Police Service is more diverse than ever," he added. 

The board said it will begin a comprehensive selection process over the coming months to choose Martin's permanent successor.

Toronto police chief stepped down last month 

The news of Martin's retirement comes after Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced his resignation on June 8. 

Saunders is officially leaving the role as of July 31 — eight months before his contract was set to expire in 2021.

The two chiefs are stepping down amid calls across Canada and the United States for changes to policing. 

Those calls for police reform follow countless protests over the the deaths of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May, as well as Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after Toronto police were called to her apartment, and Ejaz Choudry, who was shot by Peel police.

Two Toronto city councillors brought forward a motion to cut Toronto police funding by 10 per cent and use that money for community resources instead, but that motion failed by a vote of 16 to eight

On Thursday, the Toronto Police Services Board launched a series of virtual town halls to allow the public to speak about reform and public safety, as calls in the city grow for greater police accountability. You can read about the first virtual town hall here

Martin condemned 'hateful' post shared by ex-officers last year 

Meanwhile, Martin fought back tears in an emotional interview with CBC Toronto in November, 2019 after what he called a "repulsive" image was shared on a closed Facebook group of retired officers from the service

The image, shared on a group called Durham Regional Police Friends and obtained by CBC Toronto, showed two stick figures with white faces wearing police hats and standing over the stick figure of a man with a brown face.

"It disgusts me. It's repulsive," an emotional Martin told CBC Toronto after the incident came to light. 

"We've worked so hard as a police service to reach out to our community and to create a sense of inclusion, not only within the service, but in the community. It's offensive. It's repulsive," he added.

Martin said he sent a memo to the entire force labelling the image "hateful" and warned that anyone involved in sharing this kind of content will be "investigated and disciplined to the fullest extent possible." 

Watch Chief Martin's emotional statement from November:

Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin said his force has zero tolerance for images like the one shared on a Facebook group of ex-officers 1:12

In his statement issued Thursday, Martin said while he has been "painfully reminded" of the gap in trust that needs to be bridged with some of the communities police serve, he said "there has not been a more difficult time to be a police officer in the community. 

"We can and we will create a Canadian policing mandate and performance that is driven by our communities' expectations today and tomorrow," he said. 

"But it is not easy, and it will not be fast, and we will face setbacks however, working with you the DRPS will get there."