Shouting "down with dirty cops," protesters voiced their anger Monday in front of the Orillia OPP detachment in support of a woman who was attacked by a local police officer.
About 18 protesters gathered in front of the Peter Street South detachment around the noon hour carrying placards with messages such as "police force equals brutal force." They were there to show support for Maria "Tonie" Farrell. While assisting a victim of an assault in April 2013, Farrell was attacked by the attending officer, an Orillia OPP sergeant, court heard last year while Farrell was on trial for assaulting the officer.
That the officer remains a member of the provincial police angered the protesters.
"The guy shouldn’t be a policeman," said Harry Stone, who was protesting Monday.
Many of the demonstrators were passionate in directing their anger at the officer and the police force. Paul Holland said the officer is especially not suited to be a member of the police service in a city such as Orillia.
"This is a small town; we’re not Toronto. Why do they have to be so violent with us?" Holland said. "We’re just a bunch of small people in a small town and we’ve got RoboCop coming down here, acting like a bully."
Many of the protesters identified themselves as friends of Farrell.
"A member of your family or your community is hurt because of extreme tactics by a member of the police force and then the (Orillia) Police Services Board plays hot potato," said protester Larry Schafhauser. "It becomes a political issue. Their hands become tied because of the situation they’re in. So, we’re here to give it a push and get this taken care of so it doesn’t happen again."
However, being an operational issue of OPP, Orillia Police Services Board chair Pat Hehn, a city councillor, said the board had little to do with the situation.
"It’s not something the police services board gets involved in at all," she said. "It’s not something we really can discuss."
Speaking for herself, she offered support to local OPP officers.
"I personally know that residents are really well served by our police officers," Hehn said.
Lawyer Angela McLeod was not surprised people gathered to show their support for Farrell, her client.
"I’m glad people feel empowered sufficiently to take action," McLeod said. "Every kind of action ... is wonderful."
In the month since Farrell was acquitted, McLeod has received "numerous emails" daily from people who are "really pissed off" about injuries suffered by Farrell at the hands of the officer.
But there has been silence from several institutions — ones McLeod feels could help right the wrong that happened to Farrell. According to McLeod, neither she nor her client has received any communication from OPP, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) or the Ontario ombudsman.
McLeod lamented the "indignation" she and her client have faced through the process.
"Nobody will address the concern we’ve spoken to," she said. "The absence (of dignifying the concern) echoes so loud."
OPP addressed the issue Friday in a news release via Twitter.
The release stated the sergeant was subject to three investigations: from the SIU, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and a Section 11 Police Services Act investigation, which happened parallel to the SIU investigation to ensure proper policies and procedures were followed.
In the release, OPP said it was not able to comment on the SIU or OIPRD investigations, but it noted the OPP Professional Standards Bureau "conducted a thorough, conduct-related investigation and reported its findings back to OIPRD."
The news release also stated the Professional Standards Bureau investigation "did not find any misconduct on the officer’s part."
Rosemary Parker, a spokesperson for OIPRD, could not comment on the case.
"We can’t talk about individual complaints," she said. "Privacy is protected by the Police Services Act."
Only if a complaint is determined to be "serious" by the commissioner will details become public, she said. At that point, a hearing would be called, at the purview of the commissioner, which would be public.
Farrell was initially charged with assaulting the sergeant, a crime of which she was cleared late last year.
In his ruling, Justice George Beatty said the officer was a "controlling, large and powerfully built" man who beat, sucker-punched and karate-kicked Farrell and snapped her leg as she screamed in agony and held her hands up to try to defend herself.
The SIU requested a transcript of the court proceedings following the conclusion of the trial.
"The SIU is in receipt of the judgement and transcripts," Monica Hudon, communications co-ordinator with the SIU wrote in an e-mail. "They are currently under review."
No timeline was provided for the SIU's review except that it would be "as expediently as possible while holding paramount the thoroughness which must be the hallmark of any competent investigative body."
While the officer remains a member of the police service, it’s up the the community to take action, Schafhauser said.
"You come in contact with these people," he said. "Suddenly, the woman who is smiling across the counter at you every day is brutally attacked; you have a hand in it as well."
Orillia OPP Const. Jim Edwards said the detachment understood the demonstrators would be exercising their right to protest and had no problem with them being there. However, he had no official comment on the reason they were protesting.
Note: This story has been updated to include comments provided by the province's Special Investigation Unit.http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2015/0 ... detachment