Four veteran Toronto police officers arrested and charged with perjury and
obstruction of justice
Cameron Axford, National
Post Staff | January
Chief Mark Saunders speaks at a press conference in January, responding to the
arrest of four Toronto police officers.
Correction: Two of the Toronto police officers charged with perjury and
obstruction of justice were identified as working in the Major Crime Task Force.
This is incorrect; none of the officers are associated with the Major Crime Task
Force. Rather, they worked in the Major Crime Units of their respective
The arrest of four Toronto police officers for obstruction of justice and
perjury — after a judge ruled they planted heroin on the console of a suspect’s
car to justify a warrantless search — throws into jeopardy past convictions in
cases on which the investigators have worked.
A team of investigators has also been assembled to re-examine other cases the
veteran officers have worked on. The four officers under arrest are all veterans
of the force, with 51 years of experience among them. Two of the officers work
in their divisions’ Major Crime Units.
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said Thursday four of his officers were
arrested and face 17 charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.
The charges against the four officers come after a 2014 traffic stop in which
police found heroin in Nguyen Son Tran’s car. A judge ruled in September the
officers planted heroin on the centre console of Tran’s Toyota Camry to justify
stopping and searching the car.
The drugs seized in the search were not allowed as evidence in the case and
charges against Tran were stayed.
The search incident occurred in the city’s eastend Chinatown, around Broadview
Avenue and Gerrard Street in January 2014. Police said at the time that they saw
Tran run a red light. An officer stopped him in a parking lot, where the
suspect, an officer told the court, was trying to hide a white powder that had
spilled on the car console.
Officers testified that one investigator heard the traffic officer say the
licence plate of the stopped car over the radio and it was recognized as
belonging to Tran, who had previously been arrested for possessing heroin in the
Tran previously pleaded guilty to possession of heroin in that first incident.
This time, a police search — justified by the purported dusting of powder —
again found heroin behind the steering wheel. More than 11 grams were seized.
But Tran told court he was set up. He claimed a plain-clothed officer who had
previously arrested him was following him and that he did not run the light. The
undercover police were there minutes later and the defendant was arrested.
The police radio recordings of the incident played in court backed that
claim; nowhere was Tran’s licence plate mentioned.
It was obvious from the beginning the judge had issues with the testimony of
the officers. Justice Edward Morgan opened his ruling in the case against
Tran with the pointed question: “Who spilled heroin on the console of the
defendant’s Toyota Camry?”
Morgan ruled the officers colluded together and “concocted a false story” to
search Tran’s car without a warrant.
“This collusion leads inevitably to the conclusion that there was something
other than the licence plate that lead the two officers to the defendant
that day,” the judge ruled. “I conclude from all of this that the loose
heroin was placed on the console of the Toyota by the police after their
search, and was not left there by the defendant prior to the search.”
And even though heroin was found in the car, Morgan ruled, the police
misconduct overshadowed the discovery.
“This police misconduct outweighs the roughly 12 grams of heroin found by
the police. That quantity of drugs is, of course, a serious matter; but the
misconduct evidenced here is entirely beyond anything that the courts can
Who spilled heroin on the console of the defendant’s Toyota Camry?
Tran’s lawyer, Kim Schofield, requested the police tapes be kept by the
court. She alleged police have been known to formulate testimony consistent
with their recordings when it is available at pre-trial.
Schofield said the officers “conspired to plant evidence,” and she was glad
charges were laid against them. “They figured out afterward that they needed
grounds in order to search him,” she said.
One of the officers was recently demoted, but Saunders would not say if it
was related to the case. The officers have been suspended with pay, a
requirement under the Police Services Act.
Const. Jeffrey Tout, Det. Const. Fraser Douglas and Det. Const. Benjamin
Elliot and Sgt. Michael Taylor are all set to appear in court on March 11.
Mike McCormack, President for the Toronto Police Services Association told
the public that the allegations against his officers have not been proven
Saunders acknowledged the incident diminishes public confidence in police.
“We will do our best to get back the public trust we’ve lost in certain
areas,” he said. “We’ve got a system in place that works.”
Mayor John Tory said he had “confidence in the chief and the Toronto Police
Services.” He applauded Saunders for “effectively leading us through these
incidents that are difficult but come up.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack voiced concern about the
arrest, but reminded the public the allegations are unproven.
“This has been a very bad week for the members of the Toronto police
service,” he said.
Const. James Forcillo was found guilty Monday of attempted murder for the
2013 shooting of Sammy Yatim and another officer was charged Wednesday for
firing 15 shots into the engine block of a stopped car during the summer.
With files from the Canadian Press and Adrian Humphreys