Wednesday, September 8, 1993

Rosie DiManno

p. A7.

Chief elevates another player in shameful affair

Metro police Chief William McCormack, undaunted by criticism over the promotion of several officers who were blasted by the Junger/Whitehead Inquiry, has elevated yet another of the main players in those shameful episodes.

And he did it after the police services board had specifically asked the chief to hold off, pending a review of the process by which senior officers are appointed to the position of trials judges at internal disciplinary tribunals.

Staff Inspector Alan Griffiths acted as prosecutor during the hearing of Constable Brian Whitehead on Police Act charges of corruption and deceit. Recently, Griffiths was also one of three individuals McCormack selected for promotion to trials judge, which carries the rank of superintendent.

Under current rules, McCormack -- who could not be reached for comment last night -- has the authority to appoint whomever he pleases to these positions. His choices do not require the approval of the police board. But at a board meeting in July, the commissioners discussed the need for establishing specific criteria to evaluate the qualifications for becoming a trials judge.

"We can't interfere with the chief's selections per se," Susan Eng, head of the police board explained yesterday. "But the board can set some broad standards. We can look at what criteria are necessary for that job, and whether past performance should be taken into consideration. We can certainly make sure that the chief puts some standards for selection."

After the July meeting, McCormack was directed to provide the board with a report on process and criteria. Eng was dissatisfied with the results, which are described as far too vague and undiscriminating. As she points out, training and professional requirements are far more demanding for adjudicators performing a similar role in other quasi-legal procedures.

"We have to ensure some core competencies," says Eng, who added her own suggestion for professional standards to those outlined by McCormack. "His proposal was simply inadequate."

But even before McCormack submitted his report to the board, he had already made his selections. "This was a routine directive from him," says Eng. "He was not required to run it past us. It just happened to come to our attention, otherwise we wouldn't even have known about it."

McCormack's report, plus Eng's additions, have been placed on the agenda for discussion at tomorrow's board meeting. A supplemental item, while never naming Griffiths directly, discusses steps the board could take to ensure that candidates who have shown questionable conduct in the past have been rehabilitated and are worthy of appointment to a job that requires such keen judgement.

"We can't out him," says Eng, referring to Griffiths, adding that the staff inspector's name was not offered by McCormack as an interim candidate, as some police officials claimed yesterday. "But we can ask the chief to justify what he considers to be the qualifications for this position. After that, it becomes a question of the chief's own judgement."

In the aftermath of the Junger/Whitehead inquiry, McCormack was "counselled" by the board for his role in the two internal investigations and six senior officers were also disciplined. Three of those men had been promoted in the interim and McCormack has defended those promotions, stressing that an earlier Ontario Provincial Police Investigation had exonerated them of any wrongdoing.

Griffiths, 49, and an officer since 1965, is one of those who had been "admonished" for the role he'd played in the Whitehead investigation. That case involved an officer who had extorted sex from a prostitute by threatening to arrest her.

As prosecutor, Griffiths never contacted the complainant to tell her when the hearing was being held. Without her knowledge or consent, Griffiths allowed Whitehead's lawyer to alter the complainant's evidence which was read into testimony. (Whitehead pleaded guilty to both charges) Further, the prosecutor and Whitehead's attorney had worked out a plea bargain where Whitehead would lose 21 days' holiday time. However, the trials judge refused to accept the joint submission and had Whitehead demoted to constable.

As well, Griffiths broke his promise to the complainant that her name would be kept confidential.

Is this the sort of officer who should now be sitting as a trials judge? And why in the world would McCormack appoint him?

Says Eng: "The question we have to ask of the chief is this: Does he get it or doesn't he get it?" Then she answers it herself. "No."

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Created: December 11, 1998
Last modified: December 11, 1998

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