Po­lice of­fi­cer guilty of as­sault­ing se­nior

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FRONT PAGE - SAB­RINA BED­FORD

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.

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