The fall of the OPP

Police corruption is a form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, or career advancement for officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest. One common form of police corruption is soliciting or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects — for example, through the use of falsified evidence.

The fall of the OPP

Postby Thomas » Sun Mar 22, 2015 12:14 pm

The reputation of Ontario’s provincial police force has taken a battering in recent years and deservedly so

TORONTO - Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Vince Hawkes urged the public to have faith in the integrity of the force’s three ongoing investigations into Ontario’s Liberal government and the office of Premier Kathleen Wynne last week.

He told my colleague, Queen’s Park columnist Christina Blizzard: “I am very, very comfortable with the level of professionalism that our officers exhibited during all of these investigations. They are highly accountable. I have no fear about that. They will be able to continue these investigations in a very professional manner.”

Hawkes was arguing the ongoing RCMP criminal investigation into the Ontario Provincial Police Association for alleged financial irregularities, in which three senior union officials have been suspended with pay, in no way impacts the work of his officers investigating the Ornge, gas plants and Sudbury byelection controversies.

(No charges have been laid against the OPPA officers, one of whom is a former Liberal candidate, the allegations have not been tested in court and they all deny wrongdoing.)

But I’d argue the public’s faith in the OPP as a police force operating independently of the Liberal government was shaken long before this latest controversy.

And long before the OPPA’s horrendously ill-advised decision to run attack ads against former Conservative leader Tim Hudak in last year’s Ontario election, which initially claimed this was the position of the OPP, not the cop union, before being corrected.

That prompted many Ontarians to conclude the OPPA was politically pandering (along with many other public sector unions who ran similar ads) to the Wynne government, with which it negotiates for officers’ wages, benefits and working conditions.

That created a clear perception of a conflict of interest between the OPPA and the Wynne government.

But the long-lasting damage to the OPP’s reputation as a police force operating independently from the Liberals began, in my view, in early 2006, eight years before Hawkes was appointed commissioner.

That was when aboriginal protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve began their occupation of Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia ­— a residential housing development — to protest the slow pace of an aboriginal land claim.

What followed was a staggering breakdown of law and order in Caledonia, in which both the OPP and the Liberal government repeatedly ignored and downplayed numerous incidents of violence, intimidation, threats, property destruction and vandalism by some native protesters.

What happened was documented in Toronto journalist Christie Blatchford’s harrowing 2010 book, Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear And Anarchy And How The Law Failed All Of Us.

As Blatchford, now with the National Post, concluded:

“(T)here is considerable evidence that, both at Queen’s Park, the seat of the Ontario (Liberal) government, and at OPP headquarters in Orillia, there was the stink of fear in the air, and that what everyone was afraid of were the native occupiers.”

That “stink of fear” in the Liberal government, led by Dalton McGuinty at the time, arose from McGuinty’s years of condemning the previous Conservative government of Mike Harris for the Ipperwash tragedy, the 1995 shooting death of native protester Dudley George by then-OPP Acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane (who was convicted of criminal negligence causing death in 1997 and died in a car crash in 2006) during a similar land claims protest.

McGuinty had spent so many years claiming the Harris government had wrongly interfered with the OPP’s actions in Ipperwash, that when it came time for him to restore law and order in Caledonia, he was paralyzed by the concern something similar would happen there.

Ironically, while Sidney Linden, head of the commission of inquiry McGuinty appointed to investigate Ipperwash after he became premier in 2003, was highly critical of the Harris government and the OPP in his 2007 report, he also found “the evidence does not support the claim that he (Harris) interfered with the OPP’s operation” and that “the provincial government had the authority to establish policing policy” at Ipperwash.

Despite that, Caledonia appears to have been the birthplace of an attitude toward policing subsequently expressed by the OPP’s top brass, again preceding Hawkes’ appointment as commissioner, that the OPP might even decide not to enforce injunctions lawfully obtained from a judge to end illegal aboriginal protests.

In light of all this, I sincerely wish Commissioner Hawkes good luck in his attempt to safeguard and restore the reputation of the OPP. He’s going to need it. ... of-the-opp
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