A police watchdog has launched a full investigation into an Ontario force and its board after a preliminary probe found “potential” criminal activity and a “crisis in confidence” among its leadership.
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission has appointed an administrator to oversee the Durham Regional Police for the duration of its investigation, which will include looking at the chief and deputy chief.
The allegations against the force are contained in an order signed last Thursday by the commission’s executive director, Linda Lamoureux.
“The commission’s preliminary review has revealed a deep sense of mistrust in the judgment, integrity, and capacity of the service’s leadership and the board’s oversight abilities,” Lamoureux wrote.
The preliminary findings allege the “senior administration allowed, tolerated, encouraged, participated in, and/or was wilfully blind to workplace harassment of all kinds, intimidation of subordinates, retaliatory discipline, and potential alleged criminal conduct and/or misconduct under the (Police Services Act).”
The order also said the commission has received “credible information” that suggests the force’s leadership “might have covered up (and) attempted to cover-up” alleged misconduct towards subordinates and that “they may have interfered in previous external and internal investigations.”
The commission outlined 15 areas it will investigate, including whether the board had “appropriate oversight” over the hiring and contract extensions of senior leadership; whether a senior officer provided false testimony to gain favour with the chief, and whether the chief and the chief administrative officer “improperly influenced and/or prevented investigations into alleged violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”
“The allegations of misconduct have a tangible negative impact on policing and, consequently, the communities that the service and board serve,” Lamoureux wrote. “The crisis of confidence within the service constitutes an emergency, and that the appointment of an administrator … is necessary in the public interest.”
Durham Regional police Chief Paul Martin said in a statement Monday that he welcomed an “open, transparent and unbiased inquiry” from the commission.
“It is unfortunate that policing resources must once again be expended, much of it on claims that have already been investigated,” he said. “I will do my best to ensure this is the last time they can be resurrected, and that this is done as fairly and without bias as possible, to remove this unfair shadow over the men and women who serve, with distinction, the communities in Durham Region.”
The Durham Regional police board said it will work closely with the commission during the investigation.
“The board will support the work of the administrator and will provide the public as much information as it can to ensure transparency throughout the investigation process,” it said in a statement.
A lawyer for senior officers at the force did not respond to a request for comment.
The commission has appointed retired deputy chief Mike Federico from Toronto police as the administrator. The watchdog notes in an email that the majority of Federico’s responsibilities are related to oversight and few responsibilities have been taken away from Chief Paul Martin during the probe.
A spokeswoman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones noted that “no one has been relieved of their duties” while the probe is underway.
“The people of Durham can be assured that the OCPC investigation does not impact frontline policing services,” Marion Isabeau Ringuette said in a statement.