Skip to main content

Durham’s police services board is joining the force’s chief in a request for a judicial review of a rare move by the province’s civilian police commission to appoint an overseer to the service, in response to allegations of misconduct and cronyism by senior officers.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission announced last month that a former Toronto Police deputy chief would be appointed to oversee operations at the Durham Regional Police Service while the commission investigates allegations that Chief Paul Martin and other members of the senior leadership had tolerated or participated in what the commission called “workplace harassment of all kinds … and potential alleged criminal conduct.”

The commission said it is also looking into the ability of the Durham Regional Police Services Board to provide proper oversight.

After Chief Martin filed a notice of appeal and an application for a judicial review in Divisional Court Monday – arguing that the commission has kept him in the dark about the allegations against him – Kevin Ashe, chair of the Durham board, said the board will be seeking standing in that request for a judicial review.

Mr. Ashe says the probe, and the unprecedented move by the commission to appoint an overseer to the service while it is conducted, has left the service "under a cloud, when I don’t think that necessarily should be the case.”

The commission declined to comment Tuesday, because the matter is before the courts.

In the commission’s May order, Linda Lamoureux, executive director of Tribunals Ontario (the provincial body that oversees the commission), said that “the Commission has received credible information that suggests certain members of the Service’s leadership might have covered up, attempted to cover up, allowed, tolerated, encouraged or participated in the alleged misconduct or criminal conduct … and that they may have interfered in previous external and internal investigations.”

Specific details of the allegations have not been provided to the service or the board – and Chief Martin argues that has left them in an unfair position to respond. He disputes the commission’s suggestions, and told The Globe and Mail that his stellar policing record with the service speaks for himself.

In his court filings, he takes issue with the appointment of an administrative overseer, which he says “is interfering with the proper operation of the police service” by stalling both promotion and discipline matters. He also argues the appointment of the administrator has undermined his perceived authority.

Under provincial law, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission is the watchdog body that has the power to investigate – and stop – alleged failures of police leadership. And in what it deems to be “emergency” situations, it can install new managers at police forces or the civilian boards that oversee them. This power has been used three times in the past four years – but this is the first time in that span that it’s been used on a force itself, and not its civilian board.

According to the court filings, Chief Martin believes there are are seven complaints being investigated by the commission in relation to the Durham police leadership.

Three of them – which he says were provided to him by a Toronto Star journalist seeking comment – are outlined in his affidavit. They are complicated and, in some cases, date back several years. They include allegations about the way complaints were handled by senior officers, and alleged retribution against officers for speaking out.

In his affidavit, Chief Martin said that these leaked complaints concern allegations “that have been investigated by independent police services and workplace harassment investigators and found to be unfounded; and/or involve labour-relations issues that have been fully and finally resolved to the satisfaction of the association that represents members of the DRPS in collective bargaining.”

The chief argues that none of the complaints involve matters that could be considered an emergency.

But Peter Brauti, a lawyer who is representing seven complainants, disagrees.

“The government didn’t look at one or two complaints and all of a sudden decide to take the unprecedented step of appointing an administrator,” he said. “There was obviously sufficient evidence and serious concerns about the manner in which the service was being run.”

Colin Goodwin, president of the Durham Regional Police Association, did not respond to interview requests Tuesday.

Mr. Ashe said that while the board has full confidence in the service’s leadership, they respect the commission’s role. “We welcome the investigation,” he said. “We want it to be thorough and unbiased and hopefully prompt, so that we can put this chapter behind us.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe