Friday, January 15, 1993
Internal police tribunals still unfair to women"Officers who go astray -- whether they become involved in criminal activity or misconduct of a disciplinary nature -- must know that they will be caught and be prosecuted by a police force that is vigilant in maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. All of the officers who are a credit to their force and to the community deserve that assurance. So does the community which depends on and pays for policing services."
Those remarks are taken from last year's inquiry into the internal investigations department of the Metro police.
At the time of its release, the painstakingly researched document -- known colloquially as the Junger/Whitehead report -- elicited much public comment and a contrite apologia from police administrators.
Police Chief William McCormack vowed that the mistakes made in the handling of internal affairs complaints would not be repeated. The police services board, ordered to implement the inquiry's recommendations within six months, promised to be more responsive to victims who came to them seeking redress.
Try telling that to Beverly Archer. She is the former undercover drug squad officer who was driven out of her job by police colleagues who subjected her to a litany of abuse. Her civil suit against the police force lists about a dozen examples of how she was tormented and humiliated by fellow officers who wanted her removed from the squad -- allegedly because of her personal relationship with a senior cop in the district office.
Earlier this week, a lone constable was found guilty on just one charge of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act (he had taken a picture of Archer urinating behind a cruiser during a stakeout; the photo was later put on public display), for which he was ordered to work five days without pay.
In his judgment, Superintendent Duncan Wilson, the trials officer in charge, chastised Archer -- the victim, remember -- for relieving herself in a public place. He then pointed out that Constable Paul Benge had an exemplary record on the force and a clutch of commendations.
Wilson was also the trials officer who adjudicated the police disciplinary hearing in May 1990, of then-sergeant Brian Whitehead.
Whitehead was the officer who had coerced a prostitute into having sex with him, under threat of arrest. In finding Whitehead guilty, Wilson disagreed with the weak punitive suggestions put forth by both the prosecution and the defence. He had Whitehead demoted in rank to first-class constable.
In his comments at the time, Wilson also noted Whitehead's "exemplary 23-year service record," his willingness to seek treatment for alcoholism (which was not a factor on the night that he intimitated the woman into having sex with him), and his commendations. Whitehead had pleaded guilty to Police Act charges of corruption and deceit. "I may add that I personally supervised you at the start of your career and also find this bizarre act completely out of character. All these mitigating circumstances have have entitled you to the opportunity to redeem yourself and continue your career. I believe you are salvageable."
How convenient, having a friend in the judge. In any other quasi-judicial procedure, this might have been construed as a conflict of interest. But some cops march to their own rules. Witness their unwillingness to co-operate with the special investigations unit. They don't like the unit, they say the unit has been mean to them. So they're not going to play any more.
Jane Doe (her alias of record) is the former prostitute whose body and spirit were violated by Whitehead. She has spent the last three years trying to put her shattered life back together again. This has not been easy, and Whitehead's supporters -- who discovered her real identity and her address -- have continued to make it sheer hell.
When she heard the decision in Beverly Archer's case, she was aghast. It tore open all the old wounds.
"You would have thought that everything I went through, everything that came out in the report, would have changed somebody's mind. In my case, I tried to give Duncan Wilson the benefit of the doubt. I thought that he had not been fully informed because he hadn't spoken to me, they wouldn't even let me know when the police hearing was being held. But I don't think he's changed at all; the system hasn't changed at all.
"Five days without pay? This is a slap in the face to all women police officers and to all women in general. I feel for myself, for Beverly, and for all the women who will now be discouraged from lodging complaints against the police. What was it all for? What message does this send to the public, and to young women who want to become police officers? Doesn't it say to them, stay away from this employer because they don't take sexual harassment seriously.
"I'm devastated. How can this keep happening? It's just so fundamentally wrong."
Beverly Archer has a bunch of commendations, too. "I was a bloomin' good cop," she says. But she is no longer an officer, so there is no reason to safeguard her reputation. "The whole tone of this decision is appalling," she fumes. "For Duncan Wilson to say that what I did was disgusting is so unfair. What does he think officers in that situation do when they're out there on stake-out? How dare he? Who the hell does he think he is?"
Archer is disappointed with the police services board as well. She had written to them on several occasions, outlining her grievances and her treatment by those in charge of the police discipline procedure. She was not allowed to sit in on the hearing and she was only, she says, given 24 hours notice before testifying. One member of the board, Archer claims, told her that they had been advised not to read any of her correspondence because the board also functions as an appellate (appeal) body in the event of an appeal.
This is the same rationale the board used to defend its hands-off behavior in the Junger matter. (Gord Junger was the former police officer who resigned after signing a secret agreement with police.) But the inquiry, undertaken by the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, chided the board for making too much of the "perceived limitations" of its appellate function:
"In a disciplinary matter where the officer is still employed by the force, the board always has an option to refer an appeal to an outside body if it has learned too much about the individual case to give the officer an impartial hearing."
There have been calls recently to dismantle the special investigations unit. But maybe it's the internal police tribunals which should be trashed instead.
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Created: January 17, 1997|
Last modified: May 11, 1998
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