Friday 8 April 2011

Another police thug to be sent to jail

I don’t want my readers to think that I hate police officers and that for this reason, I write about them in a negative way. Actually I have known a great many of them of all ranks and I have found them to be honest, competent and considerate of the people they protect and even the people they arrest. They are like graceful cats that are unsoiled and trying to remain that way while attempting to cross a muddy street. Unfortunately, there are thugs in every police force just as there are thugs in every school yard. It is one of these police thugs that I am going to primarily write about in this article.

It has been almost seven years to the day since bald-headed Detective Christopher Higgins, 41, kicked a drug suspect half his size and fractured his arm. This thug was sentenced to 90 days in jail on April 5, 2011 by an Ontario court judge for beating Gary Shuparski in a downtown Toronto police interview room in the early morning hours of April 1, 2004.

Higgins has also been charged with two police disciplinary infractions arising from the assault: unnecessary use of force against a prisoner and discreditable conduct. Penalties can range from loss of pay to dismissal.

The veteran Toronto police officer is facing the possible end of his career. In fact I would be shocked if he wasn’t kicked out of the police force since that is generally the practice with most police forces when police officers are facing such serious charges. His record is now part of the RCMP data base (CPIC) and the FBI data base and the Americans don’t permit Canadian criminals, pardoned or not, to enter the United States or even fly over it to get to the Caribbean. Further, he can’t be licenced as a security guard or as a private investigator until he receives a pardon first and that would only happen several years after he had completed his sentence.

There were gasps in the packed courtroom from some of the more than 50 police colleagues, friends and family of Higgins (in which 35 of them were his fellow cops) after Judge Lucia Favret imposed the jail term. What were these fools gasping at? Did they really think that Higgins was going to walk out of the courtroom with a mere slap on his wrist? Suppose the person convicted and sentenced was Gary Shuparski for fracturing Higgen’s arm. Would they still be gasping as if someone had kicked them in their bellies? No! Certainly not. Their cheering would cause the windows in the court room to blow outwards.

The judge in her ruling said about Higgins. “The offence is reprehensible. He failed the institution he is so proud of and he failed the public. His callous disregard for the prisoner was the example he set that day. Citizens expect police to respect the law, not to be above the law.” The judge had rejected a defence request for a suspended sentence because a jail term could lead to the 22-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service losing his job

This was Higgins’ second trial on a charge of assault causing bodily harm. Judge Bruce Young acquitted the officer in 2005, when his reason was based of the presumption that it would be dangerous to accept the testimony of unsavoury people over that of police officers. Does this mean that the testimony of an unsavory person who is the only witnesses to the shooting of a police officer would not be accepted? That kind of reasoning would be akin to giving support to the beliefs of the members of the Flat Earth Society. Judge Young’s verdict was rejected by the higher court because it “conflicted with common sense” and other independent evidence. It is of considerable concern to me that we have a judge on the bench who is capable of making decisions that conflict with common sense and who doesn’t take independent evidence seriously.

Crown attorney John McInnes appealed (good for him) and in what is believed to be the only case in Toronto in which the acquittal of a police officer has been overturned. A higher court ordered a new trial in 2007.

In passing sentence, Judge Favret stated that the 120-pound Mr. Shuparski was respectful of police after he was taken into custody. A transcript of Shuparski’s testimony at the first trial was used at the retrial because he died in 2006 of a drug overdose. The then-50-year-old petty criminal and drug addict said that after making a sarcastic remark when asked for his date of birth, he was kicked “like a football” by the 275-pound officer.

People outside the interview room heard him yell out that his arm had been broken by the officer.

Imagine if you will if the victim’s name was Guess and when asked his name, he replied, “Guess”. The beating he would have got from the thug would surpass what a kick boxer receives from an opponent in an Ultimate Fighter ring. By the way, just so my readers don’t suspect that I am indulging in hyperbole; in a 1920 census in the United States, there were as many as 3,689 people in just ten cities alone in the U.S. whose surname was ‘Guess’.

Higgins testified that the injury must have been caused accidentally during the arrest earlier that evening; a version of events rejected by Judge Favret.

Obviously, Higgins is not only a thug; he is a bald-faced, bald-headed liar. You certainly wouldn’t want a cop like Higgins testifying against you in court, especially if you were innocent of the crime he charged you with. This reason is enough to get him fired because if he remains on the force (and that is highly unlikely) every time he testifies in court, the defence lawyer will ask him, “Why did you lie in court in 2011 and why should we believe you now?” For this reason alone, Higgy, your career as a police officer is history. The Police Services Act in Ontario grants authority to the Chief of Police to determine the employment status of an officer convicted and sentenced to a term in jail.

A Toronto police spokesperson has said dismissal for officers sentenced to jail is not automatic but depends on several factors, including whether or not they can fulfill their oath of office. If Higgins’s credibility in giving sworn testimony at a trial is suspect because of his alleged lying in court during his own trial, then he can no longer function as a police officer since giving evidence is an important role of police officers, especially police detectives.

The judge stated that the officer tried to cover up his actions and ignored the injured man’s pleas for medical attention. “He showed callous disregard for Mr. Shuparski. The public must feel secure, in any circumstances, that police will not abuse their significant authority.”

I find it interesting that this thug tried to say that the victim’s arm was fractured earlier either by the thug himself or another police officer during his arrest. That doesn’t make sense and I speak as an authority on that subject. Around twenty years ago, I tripped and broke the upper bone of my right arm. I never experienced such pain before in my life. The slightest movement of my arm caused me to suffer in excruciating agony. If Shuparski arm had been even fractured and not broken before he was brought into the police station, he would be screaming in agony when they handcuffed his hands behind his back because fractured and broken bones play havoc with the nerves in the immediate area of the fracture or break. In actual fact, when he was brought into the station, he didn’t complain of a fractured arm because his arm wasn’t fractured in the first place until he ended up in the clutches of Higgins in the interview room.

Further, Detective Joe Pednault testified at Higgins’ trial that Shuparski never complained about his arm during the ride in a police cruiser from his North York home to downtown as he was only bickering about the tightness of his handcuffs and that he requiring stitches for his forehead gash.

The Crown had been seeking a term of three to six months in jail. The 90-day sentence might have been longer were it not for the officer’s good work record and several letters of support from his colleagues, the judge observed. I suppose the judge’s observation of Higgins’ past work history with the Police Service conflicts with the statement of Edmund Burke when he spoke about the impeachment of President Warren Hastings. He said; “There never was a bad man that had the ability for good service.” However bright was the flame of Higgins’ reputation as a good police officer, it was finally extinguished by the lips of a dead man.

Higgins was taken into custody after the sentence was imposed, although he was led out a side door in the courtroom and not handcuffed. A few hours later he was released on bail pending his appeal. The Toronto police union has retained prominent defence lawyer Alan Gold for Higgins’ appeal.

A decision on the status of Higgins, who continued to work throughout his trial, will be decided when he reports for duty on April 6th, said a spokesman for the Toronto Police Service. Although a convicted and sentenced officer would typically be suspended without pay, this may not happen to Higgins as he has opted to appeal. This might mean that he won’t be fired from the police service until the appeal process is finished. This could go on for years. And during those years, this thug will be receiving well over a hundred thousand dollars a year of the taxpayer’s money. It is unlikely however that during that time if he is still with the service, he will have any contact with people arrested as his work (if he is permitted to work in the police force) will be probably be desk duty only, or alternatively, he will be asked to report into police headquarters twice a day and then leave the building.

Now think of this. If a higher court concludes that Higgins really didn’t kick and beat his prisoner and that decision will be based entirely on the premise that the victim who testified against Higgins was a man of unsavory character, it will open the doors of police brutality that will never end.

I don’t think that the judge in the higher court wants to get himself classified as also being a judge like Judge Young was when he made his ridiculous decision so it is quite conceivable that the conviction will stand. As to the sentence, Higgins risks being sentenced to a much longer term in prison. In September of 1988, Toronto police sergeant was sentenced to prison for three years for smashing his fist into the face of a suspect who, as it later turned out, hadn’t committed a crime. At that same month and year, Constables Rick Broek and Wayne Seymour were sent to jail for terms ranging from 12 to 18 months respectively for assaulting a man in custody. Later their sentences were reduced on appeal to six and nine months respectively. These are the kinds of sentences Higgins should be looking at and nothing less.

I want to include in this article what was published in the Toronto Sun. One of the paper’s columnists, Joe Warmington, wrote a biting comment in his column which was titled, ‘The Ugly Side of the Blue Wall. His column was as follows;

“Citizens expect police to respect the law, not be above the law.” — Justice Lucia Favret

Did you think the 40 police officers who flooded Det. Christopher Higgins sentencing hearing Tuesday understood this judge?

Not even 20 seconds after she sentenced a Toronto copper to 90 days in jail for a disgraceful abuse of power in beating up a prisoner in his care, witnesses say, some of the police brotherhood were out in the 1000 Finch courthouse hallway behaving like thugs.

“It was intimidating,” said Toronto Sun police reporter Chris Doucette.
The Blue Wall can be.

And like it often does when one of their own is in court, every seat is filled in solidarity. But this 275-pound copper they are in such support of has been convicted in “kicking like a football” 120-pound, now-deceased drug suspect Gary Shuparski and breaking his arm in 2004.

Tuesday’s strange incident stemmed from a disagreement over a seat in the courtroom. Reporters in the front row were asked to locate elsewhere in favour of Higgins’ supporters.

Reporter Shannon Kari, freelancing for the Globe and Mail, decided to stay where he was and after the hearing, (he) was aggressively accosted by officers.

“I was 10 steps outside the door when I heard a commotion,” said Doucette. “I initially thought it may be a relative of the victim who had upwards of a dozen men in suits around him.”

Doucette described a scene where “several of the officers were right up in the reporter’s face” and profanity was used. “One big man said gruffly ‘Show some respect for the family!’”

Doucette described Kari calmly explaining he was just trying to do his job.
“We had just left a courtroom where a judge had spent an hour talking about how wrong it was for officers to abuse their power,” said Doucette.

As a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and someone who has a disdain for bullies, Doucette “told the crowd of officers to ‘settle down.’”He said one “looked at me and shot back angrily: “Settle down?”

Doucette re-iterated. “Yes, settle down.”

Things did but Doucette said Kari wondered if he would be safe to go to his car
after one person called him a “coward” and another called him a “dick?”

Kari declined to comment further but Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said he can file a complaint to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. However, he said police witnesses said it was nothing more than “two people shouting at each other.”

Perhaps the Professional Standards Branch could pull the security tapes or maybe Chief Bill Blair could ask for a “chief’s investigation” since he has a vested interest in the service’s reputation. Remember the police apologized to Adam Nobody, apologized for the “slut” comment at Osgoode Hall and in my view owe one to this reporter.

Either way, some Toronto coppers seem out of control and need to be reined in. The leadership needs to remind them they are not gang members but police officers who have a standard to uphold. With or without command acknowledgment, this behaviour Tuesday was appalling.

Later, after getting bail, the same dozen officers surrounded him as Higgins left the courthouse, one of the pack asking: “Should I stop and get the liquor?”
What was there to celebrate? Higgins, sentenced and convicted, is now a known criminal and they are not supposed to consort with those. Pugash confirms Higgins was suspended without pay Tuesday but must appear at 54 Division at 9 a.m. Wednesday where a final decision on what happens to him will be conveyed.

Under Section 89 Subsection (6) of the Police Services Act of Ontario it clearly states “if a chief of police, deputy chief of police or other police officer is convicted of an offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, the chief of police or board, as the case may be, may suspend him or her without pay, even if the conviction or sentence is under appeal.”

Whatever happens to this criminal, it has nothing to do with what a reporter writes. It’s not a police state and the good cops understand that.” unquote

I decided to include Joe’s article in my article because the fact that the police officers were there tells you something about their character. Years ago I read in the newspaper that when another cop was having his trial, his cop friends that filled the seats of the court room ordered the family members of the victim who had been assaulted by the police officer facing the charge, to leave the courtroom. After they left, the cops standing outside the court room looking for somewhere to sit in the courtroom then took the seats that had just been vacated by the members of the victim’s family.

As far as I am concerned, unless the cops were not on duty, they shouldn’t have attended Higgins’ trial. Those on duty who attended his trial were not paid taxpayer’s dollars to sit as spectators at a trial of one of their own. These cops that were on duty and the ones I read about years ago are of the same ilk as Christopher Higgins especially if they were on duty and then had beers with Higgins after he was released. Such police officers are bottom feeders unworthy of the position of police officers.

Why didn’t Chief Blair order that police officers who were still on duty not attend the trial of Higgins? The answer is obvious. He is a coward. He didn’t want to be the recipient of their anger. Why didn’t he send a police inspector to the court to keep some form of decorum in the courtroom and outside the courtroom? That answer is obviously just as easy to answer. He is stupid. If an inspector was present, then that the inspector failed in his or her duty to protect the newspaperman. Two days later, the chief announced that he launched an inquiry into the allegations that police officers attending Higgins’ trial tried to intimidate and bully a newspaper reported covering the sentencing of Higgins. He says that he learned it from officers within the service. If that is so, then why are we learning of it after Joe Warmington wrote his scathing article in the Toronto Sun? As soon as I learn what the results of that inquiry are, I will place the results at the end of this article later as an UPDATE.

Despite the chief’s belated response, we know why such bottom feeders are in the Toronto Police Force. The pond scum dribbles down from the top. Fortunately, the vast majority of police officers in the Toronto Police Service are honourable and decent police officers so the dribble from the chief’s office mixed with those other bottom feeders on his desk and on the floor of his office (the ones I wrote about in a previous article) bypasses these honourable and decent police officers and settles on the police thugs at the bottom of the pond. Not only does the scum settle on them, these bottom feeders actually ingest it.

The specter of being the victim of police brutality is like living with a boa constrictor. It slithers about and anyone near it is grasped in its coils and crushed. The place to be near these snakes is in a zoo in which they are safely behind bars. Hopefully police brutes like Higgins will also end up behind bars. This way, the citizens and visitors in Toronto will truly be safe.

The blame falls squarely on the hierarchy of the Toronto Police Service. Police officers like Higgins are supervised by officers of a higher rank who were around when suspects were thrown in the lake handcuffed to get them to confess and other suspects were placed on a bicycle at the top of a landing and shoved down the stairs so that they would confess to their crimes or alternatively, suspended by their ankles outside a window to get them to confess. Fortunately, those days are long gone. In this current era however, some police officers resort to smashing their fists into the faces of suspects, kicking them in their bellies, or fracturing their bones. Is that a sign of improvement? I think not. It’s simply the sign of our times. Police officers of this era who think that they can still crush suspects further into the ground do so because they maintain that the suspects are already prostrate.

Perhaps some day when my grandchildren’s offspring are adults, they will not be reading about the likes of Higgins because by then, such bottom feeders will never be hired by any police force in Canada. Perhaps I am too naïve to place my hopes on such a high footing. I probably am.

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