An administrator has been appointed to oversee the Durham Regional Police Service while a provincial watchdog probes allegations of corruption, abuse of power and coverup by senior command, according to a lawyer representing current and former officers who filed complaints against the force.
Lawyer Peter Brauti said he received a letter Friday from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission stating that Mike Federico, a retired deputy chief with Toronto police, will act as an administrator for the duration of the oversight agency’s investigation.
The Star hasn’t seen the letter, but learned of its contents from Brauti, who said Federico will assume responsibilities typically held by the police chief while the investigation is being conducted.
Neither Durham police, nor a lawyer representing senior officials, including Chief Paul Martin, immediately responded to a request for comment.
Kevin Ashe, chair of Durham’s police board, wrote in an email Friday evening that he had not received “official notification” of any order. “The Board strives for transparency and looks forward to being in a position to comment further,” he wrote.
Martin’s lawyer, Sean Dewart, has previously described the allegations against Martin as “false and defamatory,” adding that a “handful of disgruntled individuals within (or formerly within) the DRPS have been proffering baseless allegations to try to destroy the reputations of members of the force’s management and command.”
Martin and other top officials within Durham’s police service were accused of serious misconduct by several veteran officers who filed complaints to the province, as previously revealed by the Star. The complaints include allegations that senior command threatened officers with trumped-up accusations of misconduct in attempts to intimidate or dig up dirt on those who had fallen out of favour with the management and lying under oath to cover up for the chief.
Ontario’s solicitor general asked the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to look into the allegations, which have not been proven. Following its initial review, the commission has now decided that a full investigation is warranted, Brauti said.
The other senior Durham officers named in the complaints are Deputy Chief Dean Bertrim, former deputy chief Uday Jaswal and chief administrative officer Stan MacLellan. Dewart also represents Bertrim, Jaswal and MacLellan, who have said the allegations against them are baseless and defamatory.
The complainants are longtime officers with the police service, which is Canada’s 10th-largest municipal police force, patrolling the region east of Toronto, including the cities of Oshawa and Pickering. The complainants include a recently retired inspector, a veteran sergeant and a former president of Durham’s police union.
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission is an independent, quasi-judicial agency that investigates public complaints against chiefs of police and police boards.
In one complaint sent to the solicitor general, Durham police Sgt. Nicole Whiteway alleges police brass demanded she dish out unsavoury information about other Durham police employees in order to resolve what she said were baseless internal discipline charges against her.
Another complaint was filed by Insp. Bruce Townley, who has since retired. Townley presided over internal disciplinary proceedings for the police service and alleged that at one such hearing Bertrim lied under oath to protect the chief. Bertrim, then a superintendent, was subsequently promoted to deputy chief and Townley alleges the police board was aware of his “false testimony” when they appointed him to the higher rank.
The commission is also reviewing how the force’s senior command handled the case of a veteran cop who was found to have misled them about his marijuana side gig. The Ontario Provincial Police concluded in 2017 that Const. Phil Edgar committed multiple counts of professional misconduct and was “deceitful” when he sought approval from police brass to own a medical marijuana dispensary for which he didn’t have a license.
In an interview with the Star Edgar said he did “absolutely nothing wrong” and that he would strongly defend himself if given the opportunity.
The OPP concluded that Durham police failed to do basic due diligence and should not have approved his request. Edgar’s superiors were aware as of June 2016 that the dispensary did not have a licence but had not initiated disciplinary charges, the report said.
Jesse McLean is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @jesse_mclean
Brendan Kennedy is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @BKennedyStar