A long-time police officer who left his service-issued gun and ammunition inside a bar after a night of drinking has pleaded guilty to professional misconduct at the Toronto police disciplinary tribunal.
Toronto police Const. Bradley Karges, an officer with 19 years on the force, was off-duty when he went to Milton’s Rad Brothers Sports Bar in September 2017 with another officer, bringing with him his unloaded semi-automatic handgun and three rounds of ammunition stored inside a lunch cooler.
After consuming what a police tribunal document characterized as “several alcoholic beverages,” Karges left the bar, forgetting the cooler. One of the officers had been cut off by bar staff, criminal court heard last year, though Karges disputed it was him.
Staff later opened up the cooler and, finding a gun, called Halton Regional Police, who charged Karges with careless use of a firearm.
Karges also contacted Halton police after realizing he’d forgotten his gun and surrendered to them the same day. He later entered a guilty plea and was granted a conditional discharge, sentenced to one year of probation and had to perform 100 hours of community service.
“It goes without saying that the offence here shows an incredible lack of judgment,” said Crown Michael Godinho during Karges’ criminal plea last year. “That things didn’t turn out worse — that someone with some nefarious means or intentions didn’t get a hold of the firearm — is lucky, I think.”
“Obviously the public, the patrons of the restaurant, the staff, were all put at risk,” he said.
Police officers who are criminally charged automatically face a professional misconduct charge under Ontario’s Police Services Act. In a hearing Tuesday, Karges pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct for having been found guilty of a criminal offence.
His lawyer Lawrence Gridin and the Toronto police prosecutor brought forward a joint submission asking for 17 days’ docked pay, an equivalent of thousands of dollars in missed salary. Karges is currently working in 23 division, in the city’s northwest corner.
Both the criminal court and police tribunal heard Karges pleaded guilty early, had no prior criminal record or workplace disciplinary issues, had volunteered extensively in his community and received commendations from supervisors and senior officers.
“All those reference letters recognize that, while they didn’t try to defend what he did, it was their view that this was a lapse and it was very out of character for officer Karges and they don’t expect to see it repeated again,” Karges’ criminal lawyer, Bryan Badali, said during last year’s court plea.
Godinho and Judge Richard LeDressay also acknowledged the mitigating circumstances in the case, the judge saying it was clear Karges was a contributing member of society and Godinho remarking on his “spotless and quite impressive work record.”
Nonetheless, LeDressay had to impose a sentence serious enough to publicly condemn the behaviour and deter others from doing the same. In addition to probation and community service, Karges was ordered to pay a $1000 victim fine surcharge.
“There was a certain danger or risk to the public that was involved with respect to this matter,” LeDressay said.
During his criminal guilty plea, Karges apologized to the court and the public, saying he recognized he put them at risk and that a day didn’t go by where he didn’t regret what he did.
“I feel bad about everything,” he said.
The Toronto police hearing officer reserved judgment on Karges’ 17-day penalty.
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis