Paid police suspensions cost Ontario taxpayers more than $13,000 per day, investigation reveals
At least 80 police officers in Ontario were on suspension with pay during a three-week period this summer, including a Durham Police officer who has amassed more than $600,000 since first being suspended in 2008, a National Post investigation has discovered.According to figures gathered in the Post’s snapshot study, the suspensions were costing taxpayers a minimum of $13,635.59 per day.
Ontario is the only province in Canada where officers facing charges must be suspended with pay until they resign, are terminated, or reintegrated, in a process that can take several years.
The debate over whether unpaid suspension should be allowed has been rekindled because of the recent case involving former Waterloo police officer Craig Markham.If an officer’s misconduct is likely to lead to dismissal, the suspension should be without pay
Markham wrote an email, which was made public, thanking Waterloo Police for a “nice gift” that allowed him to “sit home, take courses, travel, and play lots of golf” after earning about $350,000 during a three-year suspension.
Information regarding police suspensions is not readily available to the public and is only documented by each individual police service.
The National Post contacted Ontario’s 53 police services during a three-week period that began in July and continued into early August, requesting the total number of officers suspended, names and charges, lengths of suspensions and salaries.
Each police service revealed how many officers it had suspended, but the other information requested was provided in varying degrees.
Each service has its own policies regarding the media and information it decides to make public. Some, including the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police, would not reveal any additional data without a freedom of information request that could have taken months to process.
Other forces chose not to reveal information that could identify specific officers because investigations were ongoing.
Only 18 police services said they had officers suspended with pay. Of those known to the National Post, the suspensions began as early as 2008 and as recently as July 15. At least 20 officers had been suspended this year.The OPP had 22 suspended officers — the most of the 53 police services.
Hamilton Police Services had 12 officers suspended — five of whom were allegedly involved in a falsified tickets scandal in June that led to 31 breach of trust and fabricating evidence charges and five charges of conspiracy.
Durham Regional Police Const. Glen Turpin has been suspended for the longest length of time — since 2008 — on charges of assault and threatening bodily harm, and Police Services Act charges of excessive use of force.
Turpin was twice convicted on the charges, but is still suspended with pay and has amassed $600,000 in salary as he awaits a final verdict on whether he can keep his badge.
The daily amount was calculated by using 13 exact salaries of officers known to the National Post, a $90,000 average for three York Regional Police officers supplied by the force, and the salary of a new recruit — $54,000, according to the Police Association of Ontario — to fill the gaps.
The average salary for suspended officers known to the National Post was $101,388.45. If this number is used in substitution of the unknown salaries, the daily amount paid by Ontario taxpayers rises to $21,946.73.
“If an officer’s misconduct is likely to lead to dismissal, the suspension should be without pay,” Peter Rosenthal, policing expert and University of Toronto professor said in an email.
“The practice of continuing to pay an officer who has committed serious misconduct creates the appearance that the police (force) does not view the misconduct as seriously as it should, and this can lower the reputation of policing.”I can’t fathom why Ontario doesn’t get on board with what other provinces are doing.
Rosenthal suggested changing the Police Services Act to broadly incorporate unpaid suspensions.
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi announced in August a public consultation period — beginning in the fall and rolling through early 2016 — where the government will seek feedback on how to build safer, stronger communities.
Naqvi said discussions will include revisiting the unpaid suspension debate and amending the Police Services Act for the first time since its inception in 1990. The government will push forward with these amendments in spring of 2016.
“We have been actively working with our policing partners on the issue of suspension without pay, and it will be addressed in the new legislative policing framework following the public consultations on the new strategy,” Naqvi said.
Rosenthal said paying suspended officers charged with serious criminal offences can provoke them to prolong the judicial process by appealing court decisions. He suggests a system where officers receive backpay with interest if found innocent after an unpaid suspension.
Simon Fraser University criminology expert David MacAlister said officers have the right to be considered innocent before proven guilty, but if “they’re caught holding a smoking gun,” unpaid suspensions should be an option.
“If it appears like a person is almost certain to be convicted, it doesn’t make sense that they continue to draw a paycheque,” MacAlister said. “I can’t fathom why Ontario doesn’t get on board with what other provinces are doing.”
Police chiefs have the power to suspend officers without pay, in some variation, in every other province. British Columbia leaves the decision to a police services board. B.C. officers who have been exonerated after being suspended without pay are entitled to recover all lost wages, Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver Police Association said.
Suspensions without pay are made at the chief’s discretion in Alberta, but must be ratified by police commissions within 30 days. Edmonton Police Service Chief Rod Knecht said he’ll immediately look to suspend without pay if he’s seeking the dismissal of an officer. Exonerated officers can also recover lost payments, but Knecht said it’s a rare occurrence.If it appears like a person is almost certain to be convicted, it doesn’t make sense that they continue to draw a paycheque
“Let’s say a person goes to court, they’re charged criminally and found not guilty by the courts…. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be reinstituted into the organization and get backpay,” Knecht said. “There’d be a separate (Alberta) Police Services Act investigation and that may determine that they should still be dismissed.”
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police called upon the provincial government in 2014 to amend the Police Services Act and allow chiefs to suspend officers without pay in cases where they’re charged with serious offences and dismissals are sought. The OACP conducted a survey in 2012 — without the reply of two police services — and found that 129 officers had been suspended at some point throughout the year in Ontario.
Officers can only have their pay withheld when they have been convicted of criminal charges and imprisoned. There were three officers suspended without pay in Ontario, at the time of the investigation, who fit this criteria.
Niagara Police Services Chief and OACP President Mark McGuire said giving chiefs the power to suspend without pay would allow them to avoid cases like that of former Toronto police officer Richard Wills.
Wills killed his mistress in 2002 but was only convicted of first-degree murder in 2007. In the years between his arrest and conviction, he was still earning his full paycheque.http://news.nationalpost.com/news/ontar ... uspensions