Police officers face disciplinary action

Constable who admitted assaulting woman docked eight days' pay

Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, March 17, 2006

The Ottawa police constable who pleaded guilty to assault after being caught on video has been docked eight days' pay -- or $1,640.83.

Const. Martin Cardinal was handed the sentence yesterday following his guilty plea in late January to a charge of disreputable conduct under the Police Services Act.

While characterizing Const. Cardinal's actions as "despicable" and "reprehensible," hearing officer Robert Fitches acknowledged the assault on Julie Cayer on Nov. 25, 2000, was on the "lower end of the scale," compared to other cases of assault by police officers.

Mr. Fitches also recognized Const. Cardinal's remorse for his actions.

As well, he acknowledged Justice Peter Griffiths reasons for granting Const. Cardinal a conditional discharge following his guilty plea in criminal court last July and cited testimonials from co-workers about Const. Cardinal's character and work ethic.

Mr. Fitches said the intense media scrutiny, and the impact it had on Const. Cardinal and his family, was also taken into account when determining what penalty the second-class constable would receive.

"I am firmly of the opinion it was an isolated incident and will not be repeated," he said. "For whatever reason, this officer stepped entirely out of character to do what he did."

Wearing his uniform and with his mother and father -- a retired Ottawa police officer -- in the hearing room, Const. Cardinal appeared relaxed during the 30-minute hearing as Mr. Fitches read his decision. Const. Cardinal declined to comment on the sentence.

His lawyer, Bill Carroll, said Const. Cardinal "first and foremost is just happy to have this matter finally completed, so he can get on with the career he has chosen.

"He made a mistake that was nothing more or less than a momentary lapse of judgment," said Mr. Carroll, adding that he hopes the public will accept the decision and allow Const. Cardinal to move on.

But Ms. Cayer's lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, called Const. Cardinal's punishment "woefully inadequate."

"It's disgraceful. It completely sends the wrong message to other police officers and the community they serve," said Mr. Greenspon.

"It demonstrates there is one system of justice for police officers, and one for everyone else."

Pending an appeal, yesterday's sentence brings to a close the more than five-year legal saga that resulted in Const. Cardinal being criminally charged and suspended with pay in April 2001 after a copy of the amateur video became public.

The videotape of the arrest was construed by some as showing Const. Cardinal grabbing Ms. Cayer by the hair and twice bashing her face on the trunk of his cruiser.

At an earlier trial, Const. Cardinal testified he was giving Ms. Cayer a couple of shakes to calm her down, and that it was his hand and not her head that hit the cruiser.

After he was found guilty of assault, he was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Const. Cardinal successfully appealed the conviction and a new trial was ordered.

Following negotiations with the Crown, Const. Cardinal agreed to plead guilty last summer to assaulting Ms. Cayer, but did not admit to slamming her head against the trunk.

Although police Chief Vince Bevan wanted Const. Cardinal dismissed, he had no choice but to reinstate him after Mr. Fitches ruled in January not to dismiss the constable following his guilty plea to the discreditable conduct charge.

Deputy Police Chief Sue O'Sullivan said yesterday the police department had no choice but to accept the sentencing decision.

"Our service has no way of appealing these matters and we accept the decision and will deal with it accordingly," said Deputy Chief O'Sullivan, adding they will now concentrate on reintegrating Const. Cardinal into regular duty.

Since his reinstatement in February, Const. Cardinal has been working at the front desk of the department's Elgin Street headquarters while being recertified to use a handgun and drive a police cruiser.

According to Mr. Greenspon, a civil lawsuit launched by Ms. Cayer against the city was settled out of court last week.

A confidentiality agreement prevents him from revealing the amount of the settlement.


 The Ottawa Citizen 2006