Police officer files suit against officers' association
A city police constable is suing his fellow officers, alleging they failed to step up and pay his legal fees when he faced charges under the Police Services Act in 2009.
Matthew Cumming, a city police officer since 2002, is seeking $250,000 in special and general damages and $50,000 in exemplary and/or aggravated damages.
A lawsuit, filed in civil court in 2009, was addressed during a status hearing in Superior Court Nov. 2. The Peterborough Police Association has not filed a statement of defence.
Association president Dave McFadden said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but did provide a statement to The Examiner.
“It is the association’s position that this claim is without merit and brought in the wrong forum. We are going to defend it. However, this lawsuit is not going to take us away from our primary work of representing all of our members fully and fairly, as we have always done,” the statement reads.
The province does have an agency to deal with issues arising from disputes involving police associations and police boards, the Ontario Police Arbitration Commission.
The police association represents all officers from the rank of Staff Sgt. and under, along with most of the service’s civilian staff.
Cumming was charged with two counts of neglect of duty under the Police Services Act after he failed to file a report relating to a robbery at the end of his shift on Aug. 7, 2006 and for failing to ensure a Crown brief was submitted before a fingerprinting date between May 31, 2006 and June 14, 2006.
According to Cumming’s lawsuit, the officer intended to fight the charges and asked the association to help him obtain a lawyer and pay for his defence.
“The Peterborough Police Association owed to Mathew Cumming a duty of care to represent him in a proper and complete and fair manner,” court documents state.
But, the lawsuit states, the association failed to properly and fairly represent Cumming, and “did not deal with him in accordance with the doctrines of natural justice, fairness, or in equity.”
The lawsuit goes on to state that Cumming lost the chance to contest the allegations due to the actions, or rather, lack of action by the association.
Cumming was told that fighting the charges would likely cost him between $20,000 and $25,000 in legal fees, the documents states. Because the officer had to pay his own legal bills he opted not to fight the charges and entered pleas of guilty in January 2008. His punishment required him to forfeit 32 hours of wages.
“The treatment of Matthew Cumming by the said Peterborough Police Association was discriminatory, unfair, and deprived him of his rights to fully answer the charges under the Police Services Act (Ontario), and to have the same properly and fairly adjudicated.”
The lawsuit states that Cumming approached the association for reimbursement and the association declined his request. Documents also state that the association has provided financial assistance and covered expenses for officers who have faced similar circumstances.
McFadden, without commenting on Cumming’s case, said the association doesn’t automatically hire lawyers for officers facing charges under the Police Services Act.
When an officer is charged a committee of his or her peers is formed, McFadden said, and legal advice is sought.
Everything is decided on a case-by-case basis, he said, and there is an appeal process for officers who get turned firstname.lastname@example.org://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/ ... ssociation