Abuse of authority
LAST OF FOUR PARTS The police badge invests officers with many necessary powers. Visiting escorts, spying on ex-lovers and tampering with investigations aren’t among them
Police officers from GTA forces and the OPP have been caught in recent years using their positions as police — and the extraordinary powers that come with the badge — for personal gain, a Toronto Star investigation has found.
Cops have interfered with investigations into friends, searched confidential databases to keep tabs on ex-lovers and colleagues, and used police resources for personal vendettas. Others abused their power just to goof off from work.
The Star’s ongoing Breaking Badge investigation has previously documented officers allowed to keep their jobs even though they were caught driving drunk, beating a spouse, inventing charges or, in one dramatic case, secretly filming a female relative showering and making pornography out of the images he captured.
Information in the stories comes from the police forces’ own disciplinary decisions. All officers were contacted. Most declined to comment.
‘IT IS DIFFICULT TO THINK OF ANYTHING MORE OFFENSIVE THAN A POLICE OFFICER DIVULGING MATTERS WHICH ARE HIS DUTY TO KEEP SECRET’
Visiting an escort and watching TV instead of fighting crime — that’s what some cops did while being paid to patrol. A police official chastised one officer for putting “personal interests well ahead of the public’s interest . . . Part of the public interest is the taxpayer’s interest.”
Const. Benjamin Caunter
While on duty in 2012, the Toronto drug squad investigator contacted an escort and met her at a hotel. He said he didn’t want to pay because he “did not like the way she looked.” They got in an argument and he showed the woman and her friend his badge and gun. She didn’t perform any sexual acts. The officer was also busted for spending 73 hours of police time surfing the web over three months, including hours spent scouring an escort website. His 2013 disciplinary decision notes that “taxpayers of this city” were deprived of nine days of work.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Caunter’s lawyer told the hearing the officer had a sterling employment history and was undergoing turmoil in his personal life. He had sought counselling on his own.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 18 days pay.
Sgt. Christopher Jackson
The OPP supervisor directed seven officers in his Caledon platoon in 2014 to “make false notebook entries” that they had been conducting a RIDE check to catch impaired drivers. In reality, they spent the hour hanging out at Tim Hortons. They claimed they checked 64 vehicles. “The knowledge that a group of onduty officers led by their supervisor, falsely created records of duties not performed would be offensive to the general public,” the OPP official wrote in a 2015 decision disciplining Sgt. Jackson.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Jackson’s lawyer told the hearing the officer had been dealing with personal and family health problems and on that night did not live up to the expectations of the OPP.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 60 hours pay.
Const. Wing Tam
In uniform, the Toronto officer visited the House of Lancaster, a westend strip club, in 2011. He didn’t tell dispatch where he was. He went into the manager’s office with one of the women and allowed pictures to be taken of her wearing his handcuffs and with him holding her by the wrist. He had been previously disciplined four times, including skipping out of traffic court to work a paid-duty assignment.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Tam’s lawyer told the hearing his client was at the club because his wife makes costumes for dancers, including ones at the club. He said the visit was nothing more than a professional interaction.
DISCIPLINE: Docked five days pay in
Sgt. Jeremy Boyko
The Toronto cop’s platoon was scheduled to do a special project focused on combating crimes in their west-end division in 2012. Instead, Sgt. Boyko suggested the officers go to a condo where one of them lived, where they ate snacks and watched TV until their shifts were almost over. His notes claimed he was on foot patrol. “The behaviour of Sgt. Boyko has damaged the reputation of the Toronto Police Service and the public trust,” the presiding officer said in disciplining the officer in 2013.
DISCIPLINE: Demoted for one year and docked 20 days pay.
BENEFITS OF THE BADGE
These officers used the power of their badge for personal perks or to try to influence a criminal investigation into a friend.
Const. John Madeley
Late for a union meeting, the Toronto officer took a police cruiser and sped through the city, repeatedly sounding his sirens and using evasive manoeuvres — including driving on a highway shoulder — to bypass traffic. The cruiser’s in-car camera caught the 2011 incident. “Numerous vehicles can be seen taking evasive action in an effort to move out of the way for the emergency vehicle. It is my opinion that Const. Madeley’s driving did in fact create unsafe conditions for other users of the highway,” the presiding officer said in disciplining Madeley, who had been previously sanctioned for drinking and driving.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: His lawyer said Madeley was motivated to get to the union meeting on behalf of the members but realizes he did not demonstrate good judgment.
DISCIPLINE: Docked two days pay in
Const. Adam Ford
While on duty in 2010, the York Region detective attached an electronic tracking device to a car belonging to his former brother-in-law and business partner. He did not have a court order and was caught on surveillance video. Ford “used knowledge that he acquired as a police officer to install a tracking device,” the presiding officer ruled in his 2010 disciplinary decision. “The public needs to be assured that they will not be subjected to police misconduct that results in
the use of investigative techniques that constitute an unreasonable search.”
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Const. Ford said he installed the device out of concern for a family member, but wanted to apologize for the “very poor decision” he made.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 88 hours pay.
Const. Suhail Khawaja
The Toronto officer pulled a woman over and wrote her tickets for several driving infractions in 2012. He told her if she took the tickets to court he would try to help her through the court process. He also asked if her employer could get his son a job. “The driver was left with the impression . . . that her ability to get his son a job would impact the manner in which her provincial offences matters would be resolved,” according to a 2013 agreed statement of facts.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Khawaja’s lawyer told the tribunal “the matters were not related and the conversation, while ill advised, was innocent.”
DISCIPLINE: Docked eight days pay.
Const. Tyson Mayer
At the request of a friend, the OPP officer accessed an internal investigation report into a stolen snowmobile trailer in 2013. He told his friend he was a suspect in an investigation and shared details of the report. “It is difficult to think of anything more offensive than a police officer divulging matters which are his duty to keep secret,” the presiding officer said in a 2014 decision disciplining the officer.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: The presiding officer noted he believed Mayer was “genuinely ashamed and embarrassed” by his misconduct.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 60 hours pay.
At least 25 officers have been busted in the past five years for improper searches of internal databases, checking on former lovers, colleagues and business partners. Some of the offi- cers then shared the confidential information to outsiders to help with custody battles or court disputes. “Accessing police internal systems for personal reasons by one member causes the public to question the integrity of the entire organization,” an OPP official said in disciplining one officer. “The knowledge that a police officer used his position to access secure information for personal reasons would be offensive to the general public.”
Const. Hezekiah Tai
The Durham Region officer chatted up a waitress at a Richmond Hill bar in 2013 and learned she lived in Ajax, near his patrol zone. She wouldn’t give him her number. The next day, while on duty, he searched the waitress and her family on a police database. He left his post and parked his cruiser outside her family home. When confronted by internal investigators, he initially claimed his interest in the woman was strictly professional. Months earlier, he had been disciplined for a similar incident involving “inappropriate professional conduct in relation to a female.” In that case, he told the force in a handwritten note: “I’ve learned from this and it won’t happen again.”
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: In a joint submission at his 2014 disciplinary hearing, the prosecutor and defence lawyer noted that Const. Tai chose to plead guilty at the first opportunity, owning up to his misconduct.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 120 hours pay.
Const. Ian Parker
The veteran OPP officer made inappropriate searches on a police database of 124 people — including former girlfriends, private citizens, fellow OPP officers, their spouses and their children. On seven different shifts, he spent upwards of nine hours of taxpayer-funded time making these improper computer searches. “The misuse of these information databases for personal reasons by Provincial Constable Parker is a violation of that (public) trust and a serious misconduct,” a senior OPP officer said at the constable’s 2014 disciplinary hearing.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Parker’s lawyer told the hearing that the officer’s improper searches were out of curiosity and there were no ulterior motives. The officer’s apologized to colleagues affected by his misconduct.
DISCIPLINE: Docked 30 hours pay.
Const. Sonny Deshpande
The veteran OPP highway patrolman with the Whitby detachment was busted for a string of misconducts in 2013 after being put under surveillance by Durham police investigating a cocaine trafficking ring. There was no evidence tying him to the drug crimes but he was caught making 16 improper searches on police databases, as well as extensive time-theft. Over the course of 13 shifts, he spent more than 45 hours not doing police work and instead hung out at home or with friends. Deshpande had previously been disciplined in 2010 for walking out of a Superstore with a cart full of groceries without paying.
OFFICER’S DEFENCE: Desphande’s lawyer told the hearing that by pleading guilty the officer showed remorse for his misconduct.
DISCIPLINE: In 2015, he was demoted to a lower pay grade for 18 months.