Police chief to testify at disciplinary hearing


Last Updated: 9th September 2009, 9:13pm

A defence lawyer Wednesday tried to help avoid an “awkward” situation when Chief Vern White testifies at a disciplinary hearing for two Ottawa cops.

Bill Carroll is representing two constables facing internal charges of deceit and discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act. The case is about to be heard in front of Ottawa police Supt. Peter Crosby, who denied Carroll’s request to have him step down from adjudicating the case.

“I do believe I am the appropriate person to hear this matter,” Crosby told the hearing.

Carroll said he will subpoena White to testify, a very unusual twist in a case that will also divulge a third officer’s informal disciplinary record.

Const. Nicolas Benard is accused of calling in sick to court on behalf of Const. Brett Chisholm. Criminal charges in a court case were subsequently withdrawn as a result, according to the police force. Benard is also accused of making misleading statements to internal investigators.

The police force has not yet presented evidence in the case.

Carroll asked the adjudicator to order the police force to disclose evidence that a staff sergeant, who was a supervisor to Benard and Chisholm, was disciplined informally in connection with the same allegations.

In figuring out why his two clients are being put through a formal disciplinary process, Carroll said “only the chief can explain.”

The case exposes a flaw in running police hearings in-house.

Last year, the police force started assigning superintendents as hearing officers and inspectors as prosecutors in disciplinary proceedings. The move was expected to save the force significant costs in outside legal services. Having senior officers run the proceedings also promoted a peer-review approach to discipline.

Now, a superintendent will be forced to judge the credibility of his boss’s testimony and the police force prosecutor, Insp. Scott Nystedt, could find himself in the potentially uncomfortable position of cross-examining his chief.

Nystedt hinted at why the force chose to pursue formal discipline against Benard and Chisholm.

“The cause of justice was seriously affected by their actions,” Nystedt told the adjudicator, noting the force has no issue with White testifying.

“He’s quite willing to be a witness,” Nystedt said.

There is nothing in procedures that prevents the chief of police from testifying as a witness at a disciplinary hearing, although it has been avoided in the past.

Trial dates are expected to be set next month.