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Ombudsman receives ‘heartfelt’ apology from cop for offensive tweets

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin announces that he will be launching an investigation into what direction is provided to police by Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with respect to de-escalating conflict situations during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, August 8, 2013.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

Ontario's ombudsman has released the name of a detective accused of sending him a series of offensive tweets, saying senior police officials are keeping the investigation into the incident "mired in secrecy."

André Marin named Detective Jeff Caplan, a member of the major fraud unit with the Durham Regional Police, as the source of the tweets, telling reporters Friday that the officer had apologized and agreed to have his identity made public.

Marin said he met with Det. Caplan and his lawyer on Thursday at the officer's request.

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"He apologized unconditionally for his actions... I believe the apology to be heartfelt and sincere, and I am happy to accept it," Marin said.

Det. Caplan said he sent the tweets in "an impulsive moment," Marin said.

The tweets – calling Marin "a card carrying member of Al Qaida" and telling him not to stick his nose "in business it doesn't belong" – appeared on Aug. 8, before Marin was to give a news conference on the death of a young man in a police shooting on a Toronto streetcar.

Marin took to Twitter minutes before the news conference started to identify Detective Constable Scott Dennis as the source of the tweets. He later apologized after an internal police investigation showed Dennis had nothing to do with the tweets.

Durham regional police announced earlier this week that a detective with the force faces a discreditable conduct charge under the Police Services Act in connection with the incident, but said the detective's name would not be released until a public hearing on the case begins Oct. 1 in Whitby, Ont.

Marin told a news conference Friday that Det. Caplan said during their meeting that he would plead guilty to the offence.

Det. Caplan is "committed to accepting responsibilty for his misconduct, and that will occur under the Police Services Act," his lawyer said in an interview Friday evening.

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"He has properly and rightly accepted full responsibility for the offensive tweets," Joseph Markson said. "This was an impulsive act, and it was one that he regrets and if he could take it back, he would."

Markson also said Det. Caplan "never intended to, and did not attempt to impersonate Scott Dennis or any officer when he sent them."

Markson explained that the tweets were sent from a parody or prank Twitter account that had been created long before the offensive tweets, adding that Det. Caplan believed information linking the account to Dennis had been deleted.

"When those tweets were sent, however wrong of mind he was to do them, he believed he was sending them from an anonymous account," Markson said.

Durham Police Chief Mike Ewles told a police services board meeting on Monday that there were three instances under which the officer would not be named – if the officer resigned, reached an agreement prior to his hearing, or asked for the hearing to be held in camera.

"It's our belief that the officer will be named," Chief Ewles told the board, but said if any of the three instances occurred, "then there would be no authority for me to release that officer's name."

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Marin accused Chief Ewles of running the investigation "in cloak and dagger fashion mired in secrecy."

"This has been a stealth investigation and it has not served the interest of the officer," Marin said.

Keeping the detective's name a secret does not serve the interests of Det. Caplan but only the force's effort to sweep the incident under the carpet, Marin said.

"It's the image of the Durham Regional Police Service that has the most to win by keeping the secrecy."

Marin said that while he is pleased to consider the situation resolved, it is unfortunate that such an incident could happen in any police service.

"It's unfathomable this could happen from a police station," he said. "Police services are not supposed to be run like National Lampoon's Animal House."

Durham police spokesman David Selby said the force would not be commenting to Marin's accusations and was concentrating on the investigation into the tweets.

Det. Caplan – a highly regarded detective – received national recognition for shutting down an organized crime syndicate's multimillion-dollar card skimming operation.

Det. Caplan was instrumental in the identification, profiling and arrest of 93 suspects, resulting in 1,063 debit and credit card skimming offence charges.

He received a Canadian Banks' Law Enforcement Award at the annual Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in Charlottetown in August, 2009.

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