Police officer guilty of assaulting senior
BROCKVILLE — A Leeds County Ontario Provincial Police officer has pleaded guilty to a charge of assaulting an elderly man during a routine traffic stop.
Const. George Duke, 54, pleaded guilty Wednesday to simple assault stemming from the incident on Sept. 2, 2015.
According to a joint submission from both the prosecution and defence, the incident took place in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 in Elizabethtown-Kitley Township while traffic was bumper-tobumper because of a fatal collision farther up the highway.
Federal Crown prosecutor Paul McDermott explained that the victim in the case, a 78-year-old man from Montreal, allegedly hit the bumper of the car in front of him, and though he denied making contact, the police were called.
Duke was dispatched to the scene and, upon arrival, he ordered the man to “get the f--- out of [his] f----car.”
The victim, though confused as to why he was being ordered to exit his vehicle, complied.
When the victim asked Duke for an explanation of what he did wrong, Duke told him to “shut up” or he’d teach him a lesson by “making him eat pavement,” McDermott said.
Duke handcuffed the man so tightly that it cut into his skin, put him in the back of the car and kicked his legs in the process, according to the prosecutor.
He added that Duke did not read the man his rights or tell him he was under arrest at any time.
Duke’s defence attorney, Mark Wallace, agreed to the facts within the joint submission, and Duke pleaded guilty to simple assault.
The judge presiding over the case, Justice Kimberly Moore, agreed to the joint submission, adding that it should have been a routine call.
“There was absolutely no conduct on the part of the victim that should have made Duke upset,” Moore said in her ruling.
She noted the public has a right to feel safe, and that police officers are put in a position of power, which comes with great responsibility and which she said in this case was abused.
What happened was a breach of trust, she said, adding that Duke’s conduct bewildered the victim, understandably, and that it would also bewilder the community.
As a result of the criminal charges, Duke will now have a criminal record. The judge ordered him to pay a $500 fine and a restitution of $379, which represents a towing fee and gas money the victim needed to pay for his friends to come from Montreal to get him.
Moore said the significant mitigating factors in her decision were Duke’s remorse, lack of criminal record and his guilty plea.
“I accept complete and total responsibility for my actions that day,” Duke told the court. “Those actions were unacceptable, unprofessional and wrong.”
He said he let his emotions get the better of him, and told the people of Leeds and Grenville they “deserve so much better” than the way he conducted himself that day. He praised the work and professionalism of his fellow officers throughout Leeds County.
Before becoming a police officer, Duke spent 17 years in the Canadian Forces based in Petawawa. He did two overseas tours: one in Cyprus and one in the Golan Heights.
He has been with the OPP now for 23 years, mainly in Leeds and Grenville, and now awaits a disciplinary hearing to determine his future with the agency.
The charge, laid in December 2015, is not related to the nine other charges Duke faces in relation to Project Arrowtown, an 18-month investigation into criminal activity by police officers in Leeds County.
Duke has already been suspended from work as a result of those charges.
As part of that investigation, Duke is still facing charges of theft over $5,000; possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000; breach of public trust; unlawful possession of a restricted firearm; unsafe storage of a firearm; unsafe storage of ammunition; possession of a firearm without a licence; and possession of a Schedule II substance.
The charges against Const. Duke in the Project Arrowtown case have yet to be proven in court. For those charges, the judge will set a date for trial on Oct. 20.
The charges were part of a large sweep that also netted two other OPP officers, constables Jason Redmond and David Vogelzang, along with seven civilians.
The OPP’s organized crime enforcement and professional standards bureaus, with the help of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, OPP Emergency Response Team and the Montreal police force, conducted the 18-month investigation known as Project Arrowtown.
It was launched in May 2014 and, as a result, investigators executed seven search warrants and arrested nine people, including the three OPP officers.