Watch­dog rep­ri­manded for se­cret chats

Court rules in­de­pen­dence in in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Toronto con­sta­ble was com­pro­mised

StarMetro Vancouver - - CANADA & WORLD - Colin Perkel

Gerry Mc­neilly, the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Re­view Di­rec­tor, has agreed to re­open the in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Toronto po­lice con­sta­ble Chris Howes. Toronto—back-chan­nel chats that led On­tario’s po­lice watch­dog to set aside its own find­ing of mis­con­duct against an of­fi­cer were in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­der­mined the in­tegrity of the process, an ap­peal court has ruled.

In a de­ci­sion this week, Divi­sional Court said the Of­fice of the In­de­pen­dent Re­view Di­rec­tor had com­pro­mised its in­de­pen­dence and or­dered it to rein­ves­ti­gate a com­plaint against a Toronto con­sta­ble from scratch.

“As is em­pha­sized by the name of the de­ci­sion-maker, the Di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Re­view was obliged to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion and reach an in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sion,” the Divi­sional Court panel said in its rul­ing. “Here, in cir­cum­stances which be­lie the in­de­pen­dence of the OIPRD, the di­rec­tor had undis­closed dis­cus­sions with the TPS about chang­ing his de­ci­sion and, ul­ti­mately, he did change his de­ci­sion.”

The case arose in April 2014 when Toronto po­lice searched the Stan­ley fam­ily home based on a tip about the pres­ence of a firearm. None was found. The Stan­leys al­leged po­lice mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing that Const. Chris Howes had stomped on one of the fam­ily mem­ber’s head or neck while they were ly­ing hand­cuffed on the ground. Among other things, they al­leged as­sault, that po­lice de­lib­er­ately de­stroyed their prop­erty and made racial slurs.

Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the in­de­pen­dent re­view di­rec­tor in March 2015 re­ported find­ing enough ev­i­dence to sup­port an al­le­ga­tion of “se­ri­ous mis­con­duct” against Howes. The di­rec­tor no­ti­fied the fam­ily and said the file had been passed onto po­lice for dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

In re­sponse, an in­spec­tor with the po­lice ser­vice con­tacted the watch­dog via phone and let­ter to com­plain about its de­ci­sion.

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