Wednesday, March 20, 1991

Sally Ritchie

p. A1

Officer keeps job despite guilty plea

A Metro Toronto Police officer, whose actions were described as a "totally despicable abuse of police power and authority" for the purpose of sexual gratification, remains on the force after pleading guilty under the Police Act to charges of corrupt practice and deceit. The comments are contained in a transcript of the disciplinary hearing for then-Sergeant Brian Whitehead, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe and Mail.

In passing sentence demoting him to first class constable last May, Superintendent Duncan Wilson also said: "In my two years as Tribunal Officer, I have never had a case before me which depicts so vividly the abuse of power and position of a police officer. The fact that it is committed by a sergeant only compounds the offence. Sergeant Whitehead, while off duty but in partial uniform, picked up a prostitute in the Parkdale Strip area and returned to her apartment where he sexually gratified himself. He had identified himself as a police officer and I am satisfied satisfied that she allowed him to do what he did out of apprehension of being arrested."

Both the woman -- who now holds a responsible job and spoke to the Globe on the condition that her identity not be revealed -- and a lawyer who represented her in her dealings with the police said the incident initially was investigated as an alleged criminal assault.

The woman said she was on the street that evening as a result of an emotional crisis. "I am not a prostitute, I had been sexually assaulted in the spring of 1989. It had a devastating effect on my life."

According to the transcript of the disciplinary hearing last summer, the sergeant picked her up on the street while he was off duty on Nov. 7, 1989. Using his status as a police officer, he inducted her to return to her apartment to engage in sexual activity, and he drank rum and coke.

It also says that later that evening, Sgt. Whitehead lied to other police officers about his dealings with the woman. He approached the officers, who were following him in a police car, identified himself as police and said the woman was an informant.

At the hearing, both Staff Inspector Al Griffiths, the police prosecutor, and John Hamilton, Sgt. Whitehead's lawyer, suggested that a suitable punishment would be the forfeiture of Sgt. Whitehead's time off. Supt. Wilson disagreed. "This was such a totally dispicable abuse of police power and authority ... The offence is of such a serious nature that I have considered termination of your services as a member of this force.

The transcript shows that Supt. Wilson based his decision to demote Sgt. Whitehead on the [.......] advise shortly after the incident. He said the sergeant had telephoned the woman, and he continued to phone her during the three-week period before an arrest was actually made.

Mr. Maloney said he approached the police department's internal affairs section, because it had the necessary technical equipment. "In terms of having a police investigative body get the goods on this guy, they were best equipped."

The woman agreed to co-operate with the internal affairs officers because she felt it was the only way she would be protected, Mr. Malone said. She met Detective Sergeants Donald Caisse and Richard Lundy in his office several days after the incident, and provided them with a recording of a message left by Sgt. Whitehead on her answering machine, and a glass from her apartment with his fingerprints on it.

After a three-week investigation during which she co-operated with the police, including wearing a tape recorder and having her phone conversation taped, Sgt. Whitehead was arrested by the two detective sergeants in her apartment Mr. Maloney said.

On the night of the arrest, Mr. Maloney says, the woman had an emotional outburst in front of the detectives. "She broke down and worried about what she'd done. The typical regret a victim has when she sees the [accused] in handcuffs." Several days later, he said, the woman told him she wanted criminal charges laid. But when he told this to the detectives, they said they had already approached the Crown attorney and had been told there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Assistant Crown attorney Uriel Priwes confirmed that he discussed the case with Det. Sgt. Caisse in December of 1989, and "to the best of my memory there was insufficient evidence to proceed criminally."

At the request of officers from the Police Complaints Investigation Bureau, the woman met two officers who identified themselves as Staff Sergeants Paul Crawford and Victor Dybenko on Feb. 5 this year, two days before Constable Whitehead's scheduled appeal.

On a tape recording of that meeting,Staff Sgt. Crawford tells the woman she could launch a complaint against a police officer through their office, but the difficulty is her wish for anonymity. He says he suspects that under the Freedom of Information Act someone could obtain the results of such an investigation.

Staff Sgt. Dybenko tells her that her desire for anonymity was the problem all along. "Can you not realize that when the insistence of anonymity is presented to these officers that it sort of compromises and limits aspects that they can seek to redress the issue?"

The woman responds that she understands the implications and risks but wants criminal charges laid anyway. Staff Sgt. Dybenko then says the matter was brought before a Crown attorney; the woman says she was never given the opportunity to speak to the Crown.

She also says a ban on publication would protect her identity, but Staff Sgt. Dybenko says such a request is subject to a judge's determination. (In sexual assault cases, such a ban is automatic if requested; it is not left to the judge's discretion.)

The woman then says she feels the internal affairs department lied to her. Near the end of the tape, she says she feels the internal affairs officers were more concerned about Sgt. Whitehead than about her.

Midway through the meeting, Staff Sgt. Crawford says, "I know you feel that because of police officers, that there's some stigma of coverup. That's not what we're hear for. We came here to find out what it is exactly you expect from us and what we hope to achieve."

Also near the end, the woman quotes Det. Sgt. Caisse as having told her that she would be a poor witness. "I did break down that night (at the apartment). ... Anyone would, under the stress that I'd been living under for three weeks," she says. She also tells the officers that Det. Sgt. Caisse told her she would fall apart on the witness stand.

Staff Sgt. Dybenko says the officer may merely be expressing concern about her distress, and that they were undoubtedly interested in her "sincere rehabilitation."

Staff Sgt. Crawford stresses that the matter was pursued and a Police Act conviction was the result. The woman interrupts: "And he's still walking around with a badge."

"Well, we're confined with rules and restrictions that we have to work within," responds Staff Sgt. Crawford. "It's unfortunate."

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Last modified: March 11, 1999

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