PHOTO BY JEAN LEVAC /Ottawa Citizen
An Ottawa police patrol sergeant who alleged he was subjected to a barrage of misconduct investigations as reprisals after his wife made a sexual harassment complaint against a deputy chief, has pleaded guilty to one count of discreditable conduct.
The officer was originally charged with four disciplinary offences in January — insubordination, discreditable conduct, neglect of duty and breach of confidence under the Police Services Act — all dating back to his response to a November 2019 shoplifting call.
The officer pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct and the police prosecutor withdrew the three other charges as a result.
This newspaper is not naming the officer because his wife’s identity is protected by a publication ban as a victim of a previous unrelated sexual assault. The woman filed a human rights complaint, detailing how she was allegedly harassed by Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal.
The officer admitted to behaving in a way “likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the Ottawa Police Service” by mishandling the theft complaint. Specifically, he told a loss prevention officer that his behaviour was “unethical” and that the police officer wouldn’t send any other OPS officers for requests for assistance by loss prevention officers at the store.
In a decision delivered last week by hearing officer retired Ontario Provincial Police superintendent Greg Walton, the hearing found that “the actions of (the police officer) caused (the loss prevention officer) to believe police services would be withheld in the future which would result in putting the safety of loss prevention officers at risk.”
Walton wrote that “to leave such an impression is concerning at the very least.”
According to the facts of the plea, the officer responded to a call from the loss prevention officer at a Marshall’s store on Trainyards Drive who reported a potential theft in progress in November 2019. The next day, the loss prevention officer sent an email to the police officer’s inspector complaining about how the cop behaved. The loss prevention officer declined to make a formal public complaint but the service still launched a chief’s complaint into the incident on Christmas Day 2019.
In January 2020, Chief Peter Sloly requested that an outside police agency investigate the complaint. York Regional Police did so and forwarded their final report to Sloly in August.
The officer told York investigators that he believed the loss prevention officer allowed the theft by letting a known suspect, with a prior history of theft, into the store so that he could be caught stealing again.
“This belief was incorrect,” Walton wrote.
All the officer has to do was “conduct a thorough investigation but instead, he developed mistaken assumptions causing him to question the ethics and actions of (the loss prevention officer).”
Walton called the officer’s conduct, as a sergeant who ought to be a team leader, “unwarranted and irresponsible.”
The officer was sentenced to forfeit 15 days of pay, or roughly $6,000.
A joint-sentencing submission will also see him attend “refresher training” on police “powers of arrest and release.”
The police officer, who has been an officer since April 2003, has a history of discipline, according to the police prosecutor, with two other incidents that were resolved informally.
One complaint, which was made to the independent police watchdog, alleging the officer “unlawfully entered and searched a residence,” was resolved with the officer forfeiting 10 hours of pay and undergoing more training.
A second complaint, which was a chief’s complaint alleging the officer “directed officers to leave a residence unattended despite firearms being unsafely stored within,” also resulted in no formal discipline but with the officer receiving more training.
The hearing officer found that the sergeant “never actually apologized for his actions, but he did appear sincere about accepting responsibility.”
“Nevertheless, I am troubled by the fact (the officer) has three recent disciplinary findings against him (including this matter); it causes me to question his ability to rehabilitate despite his stated intent to move forward,” Walton wrote. “Often, there is an underlying cause at the root of repeated acts of misconduct in such short order.” Walton said he received no submissions from the defence on what that could be.
But he did, however, “take note that (the officer) appears to harbor some resentment toward command staff.”
The officer “insinuated that perhaps ulterior motives existed which resulted in these Code of Conduct allegations and this subsequent (Police Services Act) proceeding.”
Walton said, “Despite this assertion, he entered a plea of guilty and readily admitted he committed the discreditable conduct alleged. Furthermore, one of the informally resolved disciplinary matters was OIPRD generated, not a chief’s complaint.”
The hearing officer said he draws “no inference from (the officer’s) comments other than to encourage (him) to make every attempt to resolve whatever potential underlying issues may exist between he and his employer, otherwise, rehabilitation will be difficult.”
The officer has alleged that in the six months following his wife complaining about inappropriate behaviour and touching by now suspended Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal that he was investigated seven times for what totalled nearly 30 PSA infractions.
Jaswal has since been charged with six counts of misconduct under the Police Services Act for allegedly sexually harassing three different female Ottawa police employees, including the officer’s wife – a civilian police employee.
Jaswal is currently scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing for those charges in April.