Partner-assault unit rife with stress, police officers testify at disciplinary hearing


Disciplinary hearing told of fallout from domestic incident

By Meghan Hurley, The Ottawa Citizen January 12, 2010


Ottawa Police Const. Jeffrey Gulick, 48, has pleaded guilty to a Police Service Act charge of discreditable conduct in connection with an incident of domestic assault in 2008.

Photograph by: File photo, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The disciplinary hearing of Const. Jeffrey Gulick is revealing the extreme level of stress felt by officers in the Ottawa Police Service’s partner assault unit.

Testimony Tuesday from officers indicated that they are plagued by the fear that one of their files could end up as a murder case.

Defence witness Const. Anne Menard broke down on the stand as she described the workload she dealt with during her four-year stint with the partner assault unit.

“It was waking up in the middle of the night, being cold, shaking, being afraid that one of my victims would be murdered or hurt badly because I couldn’t get to the file,” Menard said, fighting back tears. She noted that investigators sometimes race to find the name of a homicide victim, making sure it isn’t on their list of files.

Several officers appeared in defence of Gulick, who also worked in the partner assault unit. He faces a charge of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act for a violent outburst in May 2008 that saw him assault other officers called to his home. He was stunned by a Taser, arrested and later fled from custody before he was recaptured.

Ottawa police Chief Vern White said after his own testimony at the hearing that he could use extra officers in just about every unit. He agrees the partner assault team is a stressful unit, but said that’s no defence for Gulick’s actions. Gulick should be held accountable for the choices he made, White added.

“I’m not taking away from the seriousness of domestic violence,” White said. “He knows how stressful it was, he chose to drink, he chose to assault officers, he chose to try to rip the gun out of the holster.”

The officers told the hearing officer about disrupted sleep and family life caused by their work. Investigators each have between 40 and 60 pending files, Menard told the hearing. In the summer of 2007, she said she alone had 84 active files.

The problem has been evident for some time, as evidenced by a 2003 memo, presented to the hearing, from investigators in the unit that said they needed at least 50 per cent more investigators.

Still, that’s no excuse for assaulting fellow police officers, White said.

The chief testified Tuesday that he will not allow a police officer convicted of assaulting four colleagues to carry a gun even if he is reinstated.

He said Gulick has no “usefulness to the police service” and the public would be outraged if he was allowed to carry a gun.

Following his testimony, White said outside the courtroom that he may be forced to pay Gulick if he is reinstated, but he won’t allow him to carry a gun.

Ottawa Police Association president Steve Boucher said he disagrees with White’s desire for Gulick’s dismissal from the force.

“It’s a cry for help and once that help is obtained he needs to be

put back to work and monitored throughout,” Boucher said.

Gulick’s wife, Leslie, took the stand Tuesday to describe the incident that she said was uncharacteristic of her husband.

On that day, a neighbour called police about a domestic incident in which Gulick caused considerable damage to objects in the home. Leslie Gulick testified Tuesday that her husband never laid a hand on her during his rampage.

Gulick’s wife became emotional on the stand and raised her voice

as she testified that her husband’s stress level a few weeks before the incident concerned her.

Gulick’s wife said she told him at that time to get out of the partner assault unit. He said that he just needed to make it to July when he had vacation time booked. He never made it, she testified.

When officers arrived at their home for the domestic call, Gulick attacked and threatened them, according to a statement of facts entered into the hearing Monday.

Police used a Taser to subdue Gulick, who at one point tried to grab an officer’s gun and later tried to escape when police took him to The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic campus.

Two officers were kicked during the incident and two others were punched in the face, according to the statement of facts.

Sgt. James Heaphy testified later Monday he was afraid for his life in Gulick’s home. He has been off work since being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder a year later, he told the hearing.

The statement of facts showed that Gulick became angry because he failed his use-of-force requalification. He was required to turn in his gun.

Gulick went home and began drinking. He told the responding officers that he drank half a bottle of scotch and a cooler.

Gulick’s lawyer, Bill Carroll, told the hearing officer that his client spent 35 days at an addiction centre in Guelph, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, saw a drug addictions counsellor, took anger management courses and went to individual and family counselling sessions.

All of the officers who testified on Gulick’s behalf said they believed he was a great detective who spent a lot of time with the victims of domestic assaults.

Gulick was sentenced July 31 to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty in February to criminal charges of assaulting police, uttering threats, mischief and escaping lawful custody.

Conditions of Gulick’s probation included an order that he was not to possess any firearms, ammunition or explosives unless authorized by police.

The disciplinary hearing continues Wednesday.