Friday, 17 July 2015

Bad cops ripping off the taxpayers                    

I get really upset when I learn of cops who are charged with crimes, getting paid while they are going through the court and tribunal systems.  If an officer appeals his or her termination, the matter can be delayed for months, even years.

In May 1011, a Toronto Police Services disciplinary hearing began with Staff Inspector, Steve Izzett, (who was once a fast-rising senior officer) pleading not guilty to nine Police Act charges. It was alleged that he operated the Intelligence Unit through a reign of terror, bullying, and ridiculing his underlings as well as sexually harassing a female subordinate officer and wiping a police computer clean that had damaging information about him in it. On March 5, 2013, he was found guilty of misconduct for sexually harassing a female officer and destroying computer files. The other charges were dismissed.

July 2, 2013 was the day Izzett was to be sentenced. As I was driving my friend (a retired police detective of the TPS) to police headquarters, I said to him that I was sure that Izzett wouldn’t show up and that his lawyer would ask for an adjournment of several weeks which would mean that after he was fired, Izzet would be eligible for his full pension since the cut-off date was in three days hence.  Sure enough, as God made little apples, Izzett didn’t show up at the hearing to hear his fate. And as I forecasted, his lawyer asked for an adjournment of several weeks. 

According to his lawyer, Izzett had undergone a minor operation to have a pacemaker placed in his chest. Surgery to implant a pacemaker is considered a minimally invasive procedure as it definitely does not require open heart surgery. The procedure is so minor, it doesn’t even require general anesthesia and it doesn’t even have to be done in an operating room.

The excuse he gave for his client’s absence was two-fold; the first being that he shouldn’t drive a car as the car’s engine might have a detrimental effect on his client’s pacemaker. The other reason was that Izzett was experiencing depression or words to that effect. Where did he get all that information from? It came from letters written by Izzett’s doctors, naturally. Furthermore, Izzett had called the police at headquarters the day of his final hearing saying that he was too ill to come into the headquarters for this required twice daily attendance of checking in before he could then go home.

The prosecutor (a professor at a law school) wouldn’t have any of that and neither did the judge. When it became obvious to Izzett’s lawyer that the penalty phase was going to be heard that day with or without Izzett being present, his lawyer asked for a five minute recess so that he could call his client. When he came back, he told the judge that his client would come to the hearing and asked for a recess of three-quarters of an hour.

When Izzett showed up, he wasn’t wearing his usual smart-looking greyish suit, slight blue shirt and tie. His clothing appeared to be dishevelled and his hair was un-combed. And for a man who was supposed to be ill, he walked briskly to the lectern at the defence table.  He then told the judge that he felt that he didn’t get a fair hearing and that he decided that he was going to resign from the police service immediately. He then walked over to a senior police officer sitting in the front row of the spectator’s seats and handed him his resignation form. The he walked briskly out of the hearing room. The judge later remarked that he was surprised to see that Izzett had become remarkably well so soon after he was supposedly too ill to come to the hearing in that morning.

Izzett should have been suspended without pay from the Toronto Police Service when he was charged with offences that had surfaced back in March 2009 but because of delays, many of them months apart, the case dragged on for four and a half years and he continued being paid his salary.   

During all those years that he was collecting his pay of $134,487 a year; his four and a half years salary came to $605,191. He is not entitled to a police pension since he resigned from the Toronto Police Service before being found guilty. Still, the taxpayers of Toronto were out all that much money that was paid to a man who wasn’t doing any police work during those years.

There was one satisfaction that the taxpayers got. This man couldn’t go anywhere on vacation as he had to report to police headquarters twice a day from his home which was at least three-quarters of an  hour’s drive each way.

Barrie Police Service Const. Jason Nevill was accused of assaulting a citizen in November 2010 which was caught on camera. H was charged with causing bodily harm, fabricating evidence and obstructing Justice. He had been suspended since 2011 after the formal charges were laid against him.  He was still being paid at least until November 2013 following a police disciplinary hearing. Jason Nevill, was convicted of his crimes and was sentenced to a year in jail. He subsequently resigned from the Barrie Police Service.  He was given at least two hundred thousand dollars while he was under suspension for approximately two years.

What follows is a third case where Craig Martin, a Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) constable was charged with abuse of his position as a police constable.

Markham, (age 37) who was a eleven-year veteran of the force, was found guilty of breach of trust in connection with a September 2011 incident where he passed on confidential police information to a civilian about a man whom the
 investigators believed had connections to the Hells Angels. The man had been arrested on drug charges. Markham not only visited the man in his cell, he also copied a confidential police synopsis about the drug investigation and emailed it to an acquaintance, who was not a member of the force.  During the course of the investigation, police found that Markham had also made several unauthorized queries about various individuals through the force's internal database.

After a formal hearing, Markham was fired. He appealed the decision and received his salary during the appeal process. As a first-class constable, he was earning an annual salary of $90,348.

Markham later pleaded guilty to two counts of insubordination, two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of breach of trust. He was given seven days to resign or face termination at a January 2014 police disciplinary hearing, a decision Markham appealed to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The appeal was heard nine months later, in September 2014, with a decision released on Feb. 13, 2015. In its decision, the OCPC upheld the decision of the police disciplinary hearing that Markham resign within seven days or face termination. 

Five days after the OCPC’s decision, Markham resigned from the force on February. 18,  but not without getting in the last word by writing a March 27 email to the police force; an email  document the Waterloo chief, Bryan Larkin has now made public.  This is what Martin had the audacity to write in his email message.

“I am very thankful and fortunate to have received such a nice gift from WRPS over the last three years. You have opened up other doors for me and have paid me to sit back and watch. What a dream come true. I was paid a first-class paycheque, receiving full benefits and pension without having to work. So really I was in no rush. Timing couldn’t have been better. I was “down south” playing golf until the end of April and “hanging out on the beach using some of that WRPS sick bank payout until I start my new career May 1st.”

After learning that his email message had been made public, this creep had the temerity to publicly say; “I think it’s disgusting that Bryan Larkin released my email. He is using me as a scapegoat.” 

Honest police officers are not pigs but Markham certainly was and he cannot change from being a pig to being a goat.

During the WRPS board meeting, Chief Larkin said the email sent to him by Markham was offensive and highlights the immediate change needed to provincial legislation that allows officers who are criminally charged to receive their salaries pending their appeals. Such inquiries usually last several years during which these suspended police officers sit at home and draw six figure salaries for literally doing nothing.  

Markham was suspended with pay in February 2012.  After filing an appeal, he continued to receive his salary for the next two years until the case was dismissed by a civilian commission in February 2015. He quit a few days later.  During those years, this creep amassed nearly $350,000 in salary and benefits.

Pam Machado, a counsel for the York Regional Police Association, represented Markham in 2014. Machado wrote in an emailed statement that suspension with pay exists to ensure the presumption of innocence. She said 97 per cent of complaints against officers in Ontario are later dismissed as unsubstantiated. Machado said the debate shouldn’t be focused around cost as “there is nothing preventing police services from keeping the officers at work and in use administratively.

Would the WRPS really trust Markham to be near any office in the WRPS considering how he had previously abused the trust given to him?  Not likely. 

Think about this scenario.  If you were accused of stealing money from your employer, would your employer be legally bound to keep you on staff and pay your salary until the final disposition of your case before the courts was finally arrived at?  Not likely. So why should police officers who are charged with offences; be permitted to continue getting paid while under suspension as they go through the court system year after year?  Why should they be treated differently than other non-police citizens?

Police officers who are under suspension for long periods of time can apply for welfare benefits and or take a temporary job elsewhere and if later, they are acquitted of any wrongdoing, they would be entitled to all their back pay plus interest less what benefits they received and what they earned while under suspension

Ontario is the only province in Canada where officers who are facing charges still receive their pay. In other provinces, police chiefs have the discretion to suspend an officer with or without pay.

 The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has been lobbying the Ontario province since 2007 to have more control over their own personnel, including the ability to revoke pay to suspended officers. They have been unsuccessful. Now the current premier of Ontario has expressed an interest in looking at this problem

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