By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Durham’s police service is seeking a court review of recent measures taken against it by a provincial watchdog.
Late last month, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission launched an investigation into allegations made against senior Durham Police officials.
As a result, Durham Police Chief Paul Martin was stripped of a number of his duties until the investigation is complete.
Mike Federico, a retired Toronto Police Deputy Chief, is currently overseeing the service.
In a media statement, Martin said the the OCPC has yet to release details about the allegations, and the appointment of an administrator to oversee specific work areas is unwarranted,” Martin said in the media statement. Durham Police are asking the Divisional Court of Ontario for a review of the allegations.
The OCPC is also investigating whether the Durham Regional Police Services Board is capable of proper oversight of the force.
The Oshawa Express reached out to Oshawa’s six members of regional council regarding the matter. Mayor Dan Carter, councillors Rick Kerr (Ward 4) and Bob Chapman (Ward 3) declined to comment. Ward 2 councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri did not respond before the Express’ press deadline.
Ward 1 councillor John Neal hopes regional council will discuss the issue before breaking for the summer.
“I believe that we should hold a special council meeting at the region to discuss this issue, and get all the facts, before the summer break, hopefully sooner than later. The DRPS budget is the largest expenditure at the Region of Durham, and is a priority of course, in regards to its responsibilities and its mandate,” he says.
He also notes it was regional council who appointed the members of police board, other than the one appointed by the province.
When asked if he believes those on the board should step down while the investigation is active, Neal withheld judgement, as he says council doesn’t have all the facts yet.
Ward 5 councillor Brian Nicholson feels similarly, pointing out he still doesn’t have all the information, but he believes officers, no matter their rank, should be held to the same standard.
“One thing I do have concerns about is that there seems to be two sets of rules,” he explains. “If a front-line officer is under investigation, the front-line officer is sent home, with pay of course, until the investigation is completed… I don’t understand why that doesn’t happen to the chief and to the police services board.”
He questions why the same rules don’t apply when the chief and police board members are under investigation.
“How do the front-line officers have comfort in the independence of the process if the people who are being investigated still are undertaking their duties during the investigation?” Nicholson asked.
He believes it isn’t any different from any other crime which goes on.
“Hypothetically, if an officer was being investigated for a crime, they would send them home, they’d keep their pay because there’s the presumption of innocence until the investigation is completed,” Nicholson says. “The third party does their investigation, reports, the person’s found out to be innocent, they’re brought back, the slates wiped clean and everything’s wonderful.”
Pickering councillor Kevin Ashe, who is chair of the Durham Regional Police Services Board, said they also don’t have the full story.
In an e-mail to The Oshawa Express, Ashe wrote, “It would be premature to insist anyone step aside prior to a conclusion of the investigation. As the board is unaware of the specific allegations, we are certainly not in a position to make a judgement of the facts.”
A separate media statement from the police board, its says members take the investigation seriously and will cooperate, but also calls the measures taken by the OCPC “unprecedented.”
“[We] respect Chief Martin’s and the Durham Regional Police Service’s right to pursue legal challenges through the courts,” it reads.