Female police officer who alleged sexual harassment docked pay for participating in lewd group chat

A veteran Toronto police sergeant who filed a human rights complaint over allegations of sexual harassment has been docked eight hours of pay for participating in a group chat where she received the inappropriate messages.

'She didn't initiate anything,' said lawyer for Sgt. Jessica McInnis, who was docked eight hours pay

Sgt. Jessica McInnis filed a human rights complaint earlier this month alleging her former police partner sexually harassed her for three years and that a 'culture of sexism' allows discrimination to continue within the force. (Toronto Police Service)

A veteran Toronto police sergeant who came forward with allegations of sexual harassment has been docked eight hours of pay for participating in a group chat that included the exchange of lewd messages.

Sgt. Jessica McInnis said she was subject to ongoing harassment and discrimination from male colleagues over a three-year period that left her "intimidated, threatened and exhausted."

The harassment took place in what she described as a "steady barrage of unsolicited, sexist, sexual, harassing and obscene" messages and photos, some of which took place within a WhatsApp group chat among officers at 14 Division.

In that group, dubbed "The Dream Team," the officers exchanged crude and sexual messages from at least February 2015 to March 2017.

"I can't figure it out," her lawyer Barry Swadron said of the punishment, which McInnis chose to accept, though she could have challenged the punishment at a public disciplinary hearing.

"Because she was a recipient, she was penalized and I can't for the life of me know why," he told CBC Radio's As It Happens. "She didn't initiate anything."

In a transcription of the group chat acquired by CBC Toronto, McInnis appears to be a frequent target of lewd and suggestive messages from Det. Mark Morris.

On several occasions, Morris appears to make sexual offers to McInnis. Morris also refers to his penis as "the anaconda" eight times in the chat.

Det. Mark Morris initiated the harassment, according to McInnis. (LinkedIn)

While McInnis responds to the messages throughout the chat's history, she decided late last year to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal over the alleged harassment.

"She came forward when the harassment became so difficult that she couldn't bear it," Swadron said.

Swadron said his client is especially aggrieved because McInnis has heard from former co-workers that Morris received the same eight-hour penalty.

"What we understand is that he was docked the same amount," Swadron said, though Morris's lawyer, David Butt, would not confirm any details of a possible punishment against his client.

"[Morris] has got plenty to say but he needs to say it in a legal forum," he said.

In an earlier email to CBC Toronto, Butt wrote that "detective McInnis's allegations are either false or deliberately misleading."

Disciplinary decisions that are made at the unit level are protected under the Police Services Act, according to police spokesperson Mark Pugash, who also declined to comment on the case.