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A photo of a southbound 510 streetcar in Toronto's Chinatown on Dec. 10, 2012. As five transit enforcement officers accused of abusing their authority prepare to go to court, the lawyer for most of them says his clients don’t know enough about the allegations to respond.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

As five transit enforcement officers accused of abusing their authority prepare to go to court, the lawyer for most of them says his clients don't know enough about the allegations to respond.

The men, who are due in court Tuesday, were charged last month with fabricating evidence and attempting to obstruct justice.

Sources within the TTC have said the transit officers are accused of writing tickets to cover up taking personal time while on duty, including running errands, surfing the Internet and, in one case, visiting a girlfriend.

"There were some issues with work ethic, people slow to respond to calls," one patrol officer said. "But we never imagined they weren't working. When we heard, our jaws dropped."

But lawyer Gary Clewley, who is representing four of the accused, said his clients are being unfairly maligned and can't react to allegations that haven't been formally spelled out.

"I haven't seen the disclosure so there's nothing to respond to," he said. "In fairness to them, they need to see what it is they're supposed to have done before they can say yea or nay."

Mr. Clewley is acting on behalf of Michael Schmidt, who was a sergeant in the TTC enforcement unit, as well as officers Svetomir (Tony) Catic, Jan Posthumus and James Greenbank. It was not clear who will represent the fifth accused man, Neil Malik.

Toronto police announced the arrests in January, saying that the accused had written fabricated tickets for months and tried to cover up the activity. Police alleged the tickets were written in the names of homeless people known to the officers, but not given to them.

The allegations shook their former colleagues and several remaining officers told The Globe and Mail they were left deeply embarrassed.

"If you don't like the job, you're not tied to it. Leave," said another patrol officer.

The arrests of the men and the firings of another three officers landed like a bomb in the small transit enforcement unit. They lost nearly one-fifth of their patrol strength, which dropped from 42 to 34 people, and TTC leaders were left struggling to figure out what went so wrong.

Deputy Chief Fergie Reynolds, the former police officer who heads the unit, said the fact that the men were exposed through an internal investigation shows that the system of checks and balances works. But he too was staggered at the allegations of widespread wrongdoing, blaming a "missing link in the accountability chain."

"The sergeant was one of the eight terminated," noted Deputy Chief Reynolds.

"He's the one who's supposed to be out. He's the road boss, he's the field supervisor who's supposed to be keeping an eye on everybody else. If he's off engaging in egregious misconduct, then that just shows others, well then, this is acceptable. And that's where the break occurred, in my view. It starts with accountability, it's about the front-line supervision. And with supervisors leading the expedition, if you will, it's easy for the rest to follow."

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