Says watchdog charging more cops in '09 to look tougher
The province's Special Investigations Unit and its director Ian Scott are charging more cops across the province to "fulfil a political agenda," Toronto's police union boss charges.
An attempt to make it look like the SIU is tougher on cops after the provincial ombudsman called it a "toothless tiger" may have resulted in some officers being wrongly charged, Mike McCormack and union lawyer Peter Brauti argue.
McCormack, who was elected to lead the 8,300-member Toronto Police Association earlier this month, told the Sun yesterday that the union is now taking the "unprecedented step" of independently reviewing all cases of Toronto Police officers who have been charged in 2009.
After reviewing those cases, they'll decide if they want to investigate others.
The union's criticism of the SIU comes in a year that has so far seen six Toronto officers charged by the police watchdog compared to none last year.
"There's an appearance that our members, based on the information that we have right now, that they're being charged to fulfil a political agenda of the director, Ian Scott," McCormack said.
"We're concerned right now with the overcharging -- that there are already some officers wrongfully charged," Brauti said.
SIU spokesman Monica Hudon said SIU investigations are motivated only by evidence.
"With respect to the higher number of charges, the Special Investigations Unit approaches each investigation with objectivity and without a bias of criminality," Hudon said.
According to the SIU data cited by Hudon, no Toronto officers were charged in 2008, while two (one a former Toronto Police officer) were charged in 2007. No Toronto cops were charged by the SIU in 2006. One was charged in 2005 and one in 2004.
So far in 2009, 13 officers across the province have been charged by the SIU. That's compared to three in 2008, six in 2007, two in 2006, three in 2005 and three in 2004.
Scott, a former Crown and defence lawyer, took over in October 2008 from outgoing SIU director James Cornish, who had served since 2004.
Scott wasn't available to comment yesterday.
The cop union leaders believe Scott is trying to make the SIU look like it is cracking down after Ombudsman Andre Marin's September 2008 report raised questions of whether the SIU was too lenient on police.
"We believe the political agenda is to justify his leadership of the SIU and we also feel it's a knee-jerk reaction to the Marin report," McCormack said.
McCormack and Brauti refused to say which specific cases were fuelling their claims, saying they are before the courts.
The six Toronto officers charged by the SIU so far in 2009 include:
* Const. Allan Racette was charged with assault after a suspected car thief was allegedly injured during his arrest.
* Consts. Edward Ing and John Cruz were each slapped with a charge of assault causing bodily harm after Gerrard St. resident Richard Moore was hospitalized after an altercation with police.
* Const. Boris Petkovic was charged with aggravated assault and discharging a firearm with intent in connection with an incident involving Toronto man Phabien Rhodius. The SIU alleges that Petkovic fired his gun twice at Rhodius, who was injured as a result. He later turned himself into police and when released from custody, contacted the SIU.
* Const. Ricardo Gomez was charged after a police chase that sent three people to hospital.
* Const. Jason Goss was charged after a 30-year-old man was allegedly injured during an arrest at Bloor St. W. and St. Clarens Ave.
The SIU, a civilian law enforcement agency that reports to the attorney general, investigates cases involving police that have resulted in serious injury, sexual assault or death.
McCormack accused the SIU of laying charges against officers when there has been no civilian injury and no possibility of criminal wrongdoing.
He also said officers have had their charter rights violated, personal property seized without warrants, and investigators have entered homes without a search warrant or consent.
"We're concerned about the erosion of officers' rights because if you go from a starting point that an SIU investigation is a criminal investigation, then there's no reason why those officers involved in those investigations deserve any less rights than anyone else," Brauti said.
Both the Toronto Police Association and the Ontario Provincial Police Association said they respect the role of the SIU, although McCormack said Toronto cops are feeling "mistrust" and "frustration" toward the organization.