Skip to main content

Mike McCormack's luck - the very day the decision in his disciplinary hearing came down, didn't Toronto Mayor David Miller drop the bombshell announcement that he won't seek a third term, thus drawing the media horde to City Hall.

Constable McCormack's conviction yesterday on a charge of insubordination made barely a dent in the news.

With almost any other officer, the relatively minor Police Services Act charge - improperly using police computer data bases for non-police business - wouldn't rate a mention anyway.

But Constable McCormack is no ordinary cop - the son of former Toronto chief Bill McCormack, brother of fellow Toronto officer Billy McCormack (who is soon to face a criminal trial on corruption charges), Mike McCormack is running for president of the Toronto Police Association, a mail-in election that quietly began earlier this month and will conclude next week.

Until yesterday, when Superintendent Jane Wilcox convicted him, Constable McCormack's stock line was that for all his difficulty with his own organization, nothing had ever stuck - he had never been found guilty of anything.

What also makes the minor administrative charge interesting is the background to it - the man whose name Constable McCormack improperly ran through police computers was award-winning former Toronto Star police reporter John Duncanson, who died at the age of 43 last January.

Before he left The Star to seek treatment for alcoholism, Mr. Duncanson, who was in the way of many alcoholics a sweet, shy and insecure fellow, had written often about police corruption on the Toronto force.

Until March, when the charge was withdrawn, Constable McCormack also faced another related count of discreditable conduct for allegedly secretly tape-recording conversations with a vulnerable Mr. Duncanson after he had been arrested for public drunkenness and placed in a cell at 51 Division, where Constable McCormack then worked as a station booker.

In his internal trial on the remaining charge of insubordination, according to Supt. Wilcox's 30-page decision, Constable McCormack portrayed himself as a saintly character who had been only trying to help Mr. Duncanson get into rehab, as he so often has done to help the down-and-out with addictions.

And he only ever ran Mr. Duncanson's name through the police computer, Constable McCormack testified, because Mr. Duncanson allegedly told him he was facing an impaired driving charge, feared he might go to jail, and Constable McCormack was just doing "his due diligence" in making sure Mr. Duncanson wasn't wanted on a bench warrant before he met him.

What Supt. Wilcox said of Constable McCormack's evidence was this: "I have heard … Constable McCormack's testimony as to the nature of his association with [Mr. Duncanson, although the document uses only initials]and the circumstances under which they communicated … I do not accept Constable McCormack's stated purpose … . his testimony is incongruent with common sense, logic, and his subsequent actions."

This may have been Constable McCormack's first conviction, but it certainly isn't the first time his credibility took a beating.

Four years ago, he was a key witness at the misconduct trial of Constable Paul Stone, who was charged with using his character and position as an officer for private advantage - a corruption charge.

The story went like this: On Feb. 4, 2004, Constable Stone arrested one Mario Amaro, owner of an upscale restaurant that the McCormacks liked, for failing to provide a roadside breath sample. He handcuffed a quarrelsome Mr. Amaro - and then abruptly released him unconditionally.

Investigation revealed that Constable Stone later received Leafs tickets from Mr. Amaro in return.

The Brothers McCormack were implicated - unknown to them, Billy McCormack was at the time the subject of a wiretap investigation, and three days after Constable Stone's arrest - then release of Mr. Amaro - had turned into an unconditional kiss, Billy McCormack phoned Constable Stone. During their taped conversation, Constable Stone revealed a conversation he'd had earlier with Mike McCormack about Mr. Amaro's arrest and later, his gratitude and desire to provide a gift of hockey tickets, which Constable Stone allowed he would accept.

Also revealed was that it was the dropping of Mike McCormack's name by Mr. Amaro's wife that led Constable Stone to release Mr. Amaro. As he inimitably put it on the tape, "once she fucking dropped Mikey's name ..., it's good enough for me, right?"

So that's the background.

In his 35-page decision of Oct. 19, 2005, in which he convicted Constable Stone, Inspector Neale Tweedy assessed the credibility of the witnesses who testified, among them Constable Mike McCormack.

It was a frankly devastating assessment, preceded by a woeful overview.

"I will state that the wiretap conversation provides the listener with rare and raw insight into the activities of two serving police officers, one of which is subject of the allegation before me," Insp. Tweedy wrote. "… the wiretap conversation alone is powerful evidence of public badge carrying, neglect of duty, preferential treatment and corrupt intention to receive a reward. While the words are damning, the tone is alarming, leaving the listener to believe that corrupt intention may be as routine as this very traffic stop and while giving a reward is 'not necessary' in Stone's words, if offered, it will be readily accepted."

Insp. Tweedy found that Constable McCormack's claim that when Constable Stone phoned him at the police association office (he was then a director) and asked for help when first learning of the allegation, he merely assigned him counsel without discussing the case, "is not worthy of belief."

On another point, he found Constable McCormack's answers "hollow and evasive and not deserving of belief."

In short, Insp. Tweedy concluded, "I cannot accept Michael McCormack's testimony when compared to the evidence I do accept on the critical issues.

"I find his testimony an unsophisticated attempt to support the unsupportable and an amateurish attempt to mislead this tribunal."

Insp. Tweedy found repellant the suggestion, from both Constables Stone and McCormack, that, because the tickets had gone to Constable Stone's "kids" (in fact, well into their 20s at the time), it was "an innocent matter and a good thing, when kids are able to go to a hockey game." He found as proven that Constable Stone "received hockey tickets with the assistance of Michael McCormack, from or on behalf of Mr. Amaro."

Constable Stone was later sentenced to 15 months of demotion in rank and pay; as a mere witness, Constable McCormack was only branded a liar.

Within days, he could be leading the police union, dealing with the police board and city council: A little light reading of Insp. Tweedy's judgment may be in order.

Interact with The Globe