Skip to main content

A Toronto police officer suspected a man who crashed his pickup truck was under the influence of alcohol, but was unable to test the driver’s breath because he was permitted to leave the scene by his aunt, a senior police inspector, a disciplinary tribunal heard Thursday.

Body-camera footage, which was aired at Thursday’s misconduct hearing into Inspector Joyce Schertzer, showed that Constable Michael Clarke confronted her nephew, who he suspected had been intoxicated when he crashed his white pickup truck into a hydro pole on Toronto’s lakeshore in 2022.

The nephew, who was referred to throughout the hearing as Calvin, had been permitted to leave the scene three hours earlier after Insp. Schertzer and one of her subordinate officers were first to arrive on the scene, the hearing heard.

“I’m going to be honest with you man, straight up and blunt and honest with you. I’m concerned that you’ve been drinking, right?” Constable Clarke told him. “But there’s a lot of things here that you’re going to be very grateful that you had family for, okay?”

Insp. Schertzer, a high-profile former homicide detective who was involved in the criminal probe of former mayor Rob Ford, faces three counts of misconduct for allegedly intervening in her nephew’s car crash. She has pleaded “not guilty” to all charges. Her hearing began on Monday.

The internal disciplinary hearing is being administered by the Toronto Police Service and adjudicated by a retired Ontario Provincial Police superintendent.

After Calvin crashed his truck exiting the upscale Boulevard Club on the morning of May 1, 2022, his cousin contacted Calvin’s aunt, Insp. Schertzer, according to lawyer and prosecutor Scott Hutchison. Mr. Hutchison has said the inspector instructed the front desk at 11 Division, the district where she was unit commander, to dispatch an officer to the scene – despite the crash having occurred in the catchment area for the neighbouring 14 Division.

By the time an 11 Division officer arrived, Insp. Schertzer was already there, Mr. Hutchison told the tribunal earlier this week. Body-camera footage shows an 11 Division officer, Constable Braden Doherty, releasing Calvin from the scene shortly afterward; Calvin only returned after Superintendent Scott Baptist of the Traffic Services unit demanded Insp. Schertzer bring him back, according to testimony from Supt. Baptist earlier this week.

Constable Clarke, who works in the traffic services unit, told the tribunal that when Calvin returned, the officer could smell alcohol on his breath – but he couldn’t administer a breath test because too much time had elapsed. “In order to make a breath demand, I have to have formed reasonable suspicion prior to the three-hour mark,” he said. “He missed the three-hour window by minutes.”

He said Calvin seemed to have “freshened up” while he was gone from the scene, and had “wet hair, almost as if he just had gotten out of the shower.”

Constable Clarke also recounted a conversation he had with Constable Doherty, the 11 Division officer who first attended to the crash.

“He told me that they had let him go because he was concerned for his well-being. When I asked, ‘Did you go to the hospital?’ – because St. Joe’s is right there – he advised me, ‘No.’ And I basically said, ‘Well, if you’re concerned for his well-being, why didn’t you take him to a hospital?’” Instead, Constable Clarke said, Constable Doherty told him that Calvin was at 11 Division with Insp. Schertzer.

During his investigation, Constable Clarke said he spoke with Boulevard Club staff, who told him Calvin had left his truck there overnight, because he had been drinking, and had returned that morning to retrieve it. (At the time, Calvin held a G2 driving licence, meaning he could not drive with alcohol in his system.)

The tribunal has seen security-camera video of Calvin’s truck leaving the Boulevard Club at 11:20 a.m. As the truck turns left onto the westbound lane of Lake Shore Boulevard, it accelerates and hits a pole, significantly damaging the vehicle.

In police body-camera footage played at the hearing, Calvin tells Constable Doherty that he sped up to avoid a car approaching in the eastbound lane, but lost control and crashed. Earlier this week, Constable Doherty told the tribunal he had determined there was “no criminality” in the crash, and that he did not believe alcohol was a factor.

The tribunal also heard Thursday from Staff Sergeant Matthew Routh, Constable Clarke’s superior, who said Insp. Schertzer’s involvement concerned him. “I was already, in the back of my head, cognizant of the look of impropriety in relation to this,” he told the hearing. “It appeared that a police investigation had been obstructed by Inspector Schertzer attending the scene and taking her nephew away.”

“In 25 years of policing, I’ve never seen an officer leave a division to go to another division to do a collision investigation,” he said. “This is the only time I’ve ever seen that happen. It’s just non-existent. That was enough to tell me that, okay, to some extent, there is obstruction here.”

Insp. Schertzer’s lawyer has only just begun cross-examining Constable Clarke. The hearing is scheduled to last through to early next week.

Follow related authors and topics

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

Interact with The Globe