What happens when police officers face criminal charges in Ontario?
When a police officer is charged with a crime should the public always be informed?
There is a patchwork of policies that vary from police service to police service across Ontario, with some opting for automatic full disclosure and others limiting when a statement is released.
This means there are some officers who are charged criminally, and the communities they serve never know.
For instance, the Hamilton Police Service always issues a press release when one of its officers is charged, regardless of the severity of the charge or if another police service did the investigation. A similar policy is also in place with the Halton Regional Police Service.Ontario Provincial Police, however, will only issue a public release when one of its officers is charged and OPP led the investigation, says spokesperson Sgt. Peter Leon.
Should another police service issue a press release about the charge, OPP "will confirm the member's employment status if asked," he said.
Take the case of John Tibay, an OPP officer charged with impaired driving in Hamilton almost a year ago. Never heard of him? That's because there has never been a public release about his charges.
Leon confirms Tibay is an OPP officer, but says any details on charges have to come from Hamilton police.
Hamilton police spokesperson Const. Steve Welton will only say that a 46-year-old from Barrie was charged Aug. 15, 2014 with impaired driving and having more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.
The car Tibay was allegedly driving was found stuck on the concrete median between a fast-food restaurant and a gas station on Rymal Road East, near Upper Centennial Parkway.
Welton said the man was released on a promise to appear in court at a later date, and so the police service (according to its policy) did not release his name.
The charges have not yet been tested in court. Tibay's case is now scheduled for trial March 29.
Both Tibay and his lawyer, Jeff Milligan, declined to comment for this article.
Police services in Ontario are governed by the Police Services Act. However, there are no provincewide guidelines or oversight on policies.
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is not involved in the day-to-day operations of police services but often communicates with policing partners to assist with their understanding and implementation of the Police Services Act, spokesperson Jason Gennaro said.
"The ministry does not direct police services in how they communicate with the public."
The minister, Yasir Naqvi, was unavailable for comment.
Similarly the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police does not intervene in police service policy making, nor does it track policies, said spokesperson Joe Couto.
The Police Association of Ontario, which represents officers across the province, does not take a position on whether services should notify the public when officers are charged, said its president, Bruce Chapman.
There is a "wide range" of policies across the province, he said.
"Hamilton is at one end and there are other services at the other."Outside of criminal charges there are also varying policies around Police Services Act disciplinary charges. Hamilton police issues a notice about a first appearance, whereas the OPP doesn't send out releases, but will confirm hearing details when asked.
Chapman said police officers are rightly held to a higher standard, however, he questioned the value of publicizing the name of an officer facing very minor charges or disciplinary matters.
"It's devastating for an officer and his family," he said, adding that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and officers are often unfairly maligned.
Even when officers are cleared by the court, there is often public scrutiny that the officer got special treatment, Chapman said.
"How would you like your name publicized in the paper in front of family, friends and employers for impaired driving?" he said.http://www.thespec.com/news-story/58003 ... n-ontario/