Sunday, May 17, 2009

" ... a lot of trust issues ..."

My co-blogger has been rigorously posting about the Braidwood inquiry, and closer to home, a recent incident involving an Ottawa police officer.

There is currently a police disciplinary hearing being held to review a number of complaints against Const. Daniel Bargh.

Bargh is charged with using the Canadian Police Information Centre inappropriately more than 100 times to find information on civilians, colleagues, girlfriends and his father. "I was getting better knowledge of activities and events that are happening in my area," Bargh, who is still on active duty, testified.

He claimed he ran names -- including his own, dozens of times -- to "view possible court outcomes, gain information about calls and refresh my memory for trials."

Last week, the hearing heard the databases -- which contain personal information like home addresses, previous complaints or criminal records -- are only for investigative purposes. The system tracks who uses it, by badge number, time and search name. Between Feb. 1, 2005, and Nov. 26, 2007, Bargh ran searches on 13 officers.

He also ran the name of the daughter of a police officer, a woman he had started a relationship with after he met her on a call in July 2007.

In April, Bargh faced a charge of using unnecessary force under the Police Services Act. A surveillance tape from the Shepherds of Good Hope seemed to show an officer beating up a drunk, homeless man at the shelter.
"Officers have the authority to use force in effecting an arrest, in dealing with their duties. But how much force, and what's necessary under the circumstances, that's what's of concern," said police service prosecutor Linda Bordeleau.
Though he was cleared of that charge, Bargh currently faces a number of allegations that his actions have been inappropriate, discreditable and in possible violation of his professional code of conduct.

He also stands charged with two counts of discreditable conduct, for allegedly associating with a man with a minor criminal record for drug possession, and for allegedly referring to a fellow officer using “derogatory and profane language while in the presence of a member of the public,” according to the internal charge. He pleaded not guilty to those charges, too.

Finally, he is charged with deceit for allegedly lying to a professional standards branch officer investigating his knowledge of the man with the criminal record. None of the offences are criminal, and Bargh remains on active duty.

As well, a colleague of Bargh testified at the disciplinary hearing that he believed Bargh provided personal information about him to a known drug dealer. This may well have been the last straw for fellow officers who were perhaps tolerating or covering for Bargh's actions.

As zoom blogged in her post at knitnut:

Every time a cop gets caught abusing his power and doing something illegal or disturbing, the force closes in protectively around its own. We’re encouraged to think of it as an isolated incident rather than a systemic problem. We hear that a thorough investigation will be carried out, and we should be patient because a thorough investigation takes months, but we’re assured that justice will prevail in the end. ...

‘Thorough’ investigations often end up going nowhere. If it comes down to one person’s word against another, the benefit of the doubt goes to the cop. Witnesses, understandably, aren’t comfortable coming forward against cops. Cops aren’t comfortable coming forward against other cops. So unless a case is absolutely rock-solid against a cop, and there are plenty of credible witnesses, bad cops seem to get away with atrocious and illegal behaviour. ...

The Chief's got his work cut out for him. I don’t think this is just about damage control, or optics, or the force’s image. I suspect it runs much deeper than that.

Dr Webster describes in his open letter to Zofia Cisowski (Robert Dziekanski's mother) the downfall of a police force culture that wields force with impunity. I hope, and trust that Chief Vern White will remove the bad apples from the Ottawa police force. As Dr Dawg said, something smells rotten.

No comments: