• By: Dan Donovan

Rapes and lies—the cancerous misconduct at the Ottawa Police Service

The Ottawa Police Service Board members are accessories to the rape culture at the OPS.

Ottawa Life Magazine has been writing about the serious problems in policing in Ottawa and across Canada with police misconduct, police recruiting, police training and police oversight for over a decade. Over the past several weeks the CBCs Fifth Estate has been running a series of investigative shows titled Policing the Police about the disturbing preponderance of crimes committed by police officers without consequence in forces across Canada. One full episode is focused on the sexual assault, misogyny, and dysfunctional culture within the Ottawa Police Service (OPS).

That show comes on the heels of several years of Ottawa Life Magazine and other investigative media reporting on the multiple cases of sexual assault and other crimes by OPS officers who are then protected by ‘the system’ at the expense of the victims and taxpayers.

This criminal behaviour is the direct result of poor leadership and incompetent oversight.

The criminal legal system in Ottawa is dysfunctional to its core. The police are corrupt, the Crown prosecutors have integrity, judgement and credibility issues and the decisions of local judges in multiple cases are causing the public to question whether justice depends on your race or position in society.

Many residents are legitimately asking how a hand wringing judge could possibly conclude that it was a ‘reasonable use of force’ for an Ottawa policeman to punch an unarmed and frightened man with mental health issues, Abdi Abdirahman, in the head multiple times with non-regulation issue composite gloves that have the impact of brass knuckles? Abdirahman of course died from the beating.

In court police lawyers claimed he died of a heart attack. It was a breathtakingly preposterous claim akin to saying that if someone was guillotined, they did not die from their head being cut off-they died from bleeding to death (of course caused by their head being cut off!). 

Justice Robert Kelly's statement that he was not convinced Montsion “used force that was a substantial departure from what a reasonable police officer would do, or that it went beyond what’s justified in the Criminal Code” should shake the conscience of every citizen in Ontario. That a superior court judge somehow conclude that it was not only reasonable, but also acceptable for the police to violently punch a man in the head multiple times with vicious blows while wearing non-regulation gloves that have the same impact as brass knuckles is mind-blowing.

That Justice Robert Kelly could not see the forest for the trees in the case is an understatement. His decision was a massive gut punch to the principle that “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” His ruling was completely insane in a most Kafkaesque way as it represents ‘the law and legal system’ vetting out ‘justice’ to one of its own.

Worse than the Kelly decision was that the crown did not appeal it. However, this should come as no surprise to the chummy chummy, yummy yummy relationship between the OPS and the Crown Attorney in Ottawa. The local crown prosecutor’s office has been in bed with the Ottawa Police for decades. Don’t worry about integrity or redlines or rules having a say in the adjudication of matters with this crew. After all, it was the crown who agreed to the request for Montsion to avoid appearing before a bail judge when he was criminally charged in March 2017 with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon in the July 2016 killing of Abdi.

It was the crown who set a trial almost a year and a half after the charges. They apparently missed the class in law school that teaches the principle that “Justice delayed is justice denied” as a legal maxim. This is the same crown office that ensured that Matthew Humphreys got to keep his job as assistant Crown attorney in Ottawa after he was charged with drunk driving for crashing his car into the back of a construction vehicle on Metcalfe Street at 2:25 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2015 on his way home from the annual Christmas party for Ottawa’s Crown attorneys’ office that was held at . . . . the Ottawa Police Association headquarters on Catherine Street. (I won't even get into how completely inappropriate it is for crown prosecutors to hold a party at the police union hangout).

Humphreys’ blood-alcohol level was 200 mg/100 ml of blood, or more than double the legal limit of 80 mg/100 ml. He was convicted of drunk driving and his sentence included being banned from driving for a year, a $1,400 fine, a $420 surcharge, and he was ordered to install an ignition interlocking device on his vehicle.

While Humphreys expressed remorse and took responsibility for his actions, he should have been terminated upon conviction in the interest of preserving the integrity of the office of the crown attorney. Instead, when asked if he would be fired, Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General, wrote in an email that Humphreys’ employment status is “internal and confidential.” He is still an assistant Crown attorney in Ottawa.

The injustice of this came into sharp focus again in 2019 when Ottawa crown prosecutors refused to appeal the sentencing of Deinsberg St-Hilaire, who was spared jail time after admitting he went to great lengths to cover his tracks and hide from police after a 2015 hit-and-run that killed Ottawa cyclist Andy Nevin. On May 15, 2019 the victim’s father, Kerry Nevin said the crown in Ottawa and the justice system had failed his dead son.

“This whole dirty justice system has forgotten what their jobs are. My late son was not accorded justice, rather he was victimized again,” the grieving father said.

After doing nothing, Deputy Crown Attorney Brian Holowka did what many of his ilk tend to do and sent a disingenuous letter offering trite condolences to explain away his incompetence and crass insensitivity to the victim’s family. “I recognize the devastating impact that this case has had on you and your family, and that the sentence imposed was far more lenient than you had hoped for. I extend my condolences to you and all your family for the tragic loss that you have suffered,” Holowka wrote.

His comments run in the same vein as the ‘our hearts and prayers are with you comments’ Americans get from public and elected officials after every mass shooting. These are meaningless and hollow words from a hollow man that only contribute to the continued erosion of trust in Canada’s unequal justice system .

It is a very legitimate question to ask how it is that the crown prosecutors in Ottawa were able to play the system and protect one of their own who was charged and convicted of a serious criminal offence yet was able to keep his job and then some. Yet, when a citizen is killed a couple of years later by a drunk driver, this same crown office doesn't go to bat for the citizen whose son was killed. They go to bat for the killer. And justice for all, indeed!

Then again this is the same crown office that orchestrated a please deal against a dangerous and abusive Ottawa cop and determined it was appropriate and somehow in the public interest to drop 27 of 32 charges against OPS Constable Eric Post against seven Ottawa women including violent sexual assault, assault, and forcible confinement. Post was convicted last month on the five plea deal charges and is awaiting sentencing. He was not immediately fired for cause by OPS Chief Peter Sloly and remains on the OPS payroll.

The heart wrenching statement by Kerry Nevin that,” This whole dirty justice system has forgotten what their jobs are. My late son was not accorded justice, rather he was victimized again” serves as the perfect metaphor to describe the Ottawa Police Service and its rather temperamental chief and the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB).

The OPSB members are Ottawa city councillor Chair the OPSB Diane Deans, Vice Chair Sandy Smallwood, Daljit Nirman, Dr. Beverly Johnson and Ottawa city councillors Rawlson King and Carol Anne Meehan (and their predecessors) have one of the worst records in Canada in dealing with police misconduct. That is not conjecture — it is fact. Look no further than the 20-million-plus taxpayers’ dollars the OPSB has doled out in the last five years for victim’s settlement and legal fees and related costs rather holding offending officers accountable for committing serious and often repugnant crimes.

The continuing swindle the OPSB is running to cover up the misconduct is worthy of a crime family. It works like this: suspend officers charged with crimes on full pay; wait for the court hearings to be over; use taxpayers’ dollars to pay out the victims and their lawyers and other associated fees and then give the offending officers a slap on the wrist and put them back on the job.

The collective gross incompetence of the OPSB can be measured by their inaction on multiple files where OPS cops have committed serious and at times violent crimes against both citizens and their fellow employees without consequences. The OPSB’s propensity to turn a blind eye to the victims of rape, sexual assault and misogyny have made them all accessories by default to the ongoing rape culture at the OPS. Despite having the power and resources to take action, they have behaved as meek cowards treating the brutalization of women as an internal human resource matter while allowing OPS Chief Peter Sloly to boss them around like children instead of telling him who’s the boss.

As apologists and enablers for the bad police involved in misconduct,the OPSB have stained the reputation and credibility of the good police on the force whose pleas for help they ignored. 

OPSB Chair Diane Deans has proven a farcical figure in her role as the whacky cheerleading apologist for the OPS. Incredibly, she continues to publicly praise Sloly and the OPS, despite the horrible record of misconduct. She blindly supports Sloly’s preponderance for secrecy and acts though she works for him. Deans has said nothing meaningful or substantive about the dozens of victims of the police misconduct or the OPS officer/employee who was allegedly raped by her superior. Both Deans and other board members have yet to explain how in the past five years the OPSB has paid out over
$20 million in taxpayers’ dollars to cover damages for police misconduct. Over 75 OPS officers have been criminally charged in the past seven years. Not one has been fired with cause.

Between 17 and 20 Ottawa Police officers are currently on suspension with full pay and benefits despite being charged with criminal misconduct. The exact number is not known because Deans and the rest of the OPSB believe this information should be kept from the public. OLM estimates based on salary information, leave, vacation pay, and benefits estimates the cost to taxpayers in the city of Ottawa is well over $4 million this year alone.

There are now over 40 formal allegations against the OPS regarding misconduct, sexual abuse, and harassment. Due to misogynistic culture in the OPS, women who report their abusers are often met with silence or sexism, intimidation, and backlash. This systemic abuse has allowed police officers to get away with crimes against women, including rape, without having to fear punishment.

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly’s handling of the rampant misogyny in the force has been an unbridled disaster since he became Chief 18 months ago. After learning last March that OPS Deputy Chief Uday Jaswal was being charged with six counts of sexual misconduct it took Sloly and the OPSB ten days to remove him. Jaswal remains on suspension awaiting trial a year later with full pay and benefits. Following the Jaswal charges, 14 other female OPS employees came forward with complaints of sexual harassment, assault and misogyny. Sloly’s response to the additional accusations by his own employees was startling. On May 25, 2020, he said that “unless women outside the police service were impacted, the names of the officers found guilty of wrongdoing against female counterparts should not be identified because it's an internal matter”.

Carleton criminologist and professor Darryl Davies, a recognized national expert on police misconduct told Ottawa Life Magazine that Sloly’s comments were “outrageous, arrogant and beyond ignorant”. Davies said that, ‘clearly, Sloly doesn’t get it and is part of the problem. Rape and sexual assault are not an internal human resource matter. These are criminal matters and when Sloly did not immediately call for an outside independent investigation, Deans and the OPSB  should have ordered him to do so or called one in themselves. It seriously brings into question issues related to Sloly’s judgement, temperament and management and leadership abilities,” said Davies, who added, “worse it is proof of the utter incompetence of the OPSB”.

Instead of acting, Deans and the OPSB took more of their stupid pills and followed Sloly's lead. Then reports surfaced of an OPS constable who claimed she had been raped by a senior constable in 2011. It was later disclosed that the allegations of rape were investigated and found to be credible. The OPSB and Sloly and the former OPS Chief Charles Bordeau all knew of the rape and took no action. To get justice the victim went outside the force and filed a human rights complaint and legal action. Only after this, in August 2020 did Sloly finally suspended Const. Kevin Benloss on accusations that he allegedly raped a rookie colleague in 2011 Benloss has not been charged and remains suspended while receiving his full pay.

Then it was learned that another OPS officer named Peter Vanderzander, a cop a spotless 20-year record had run into the rath of both OPS deputy Chief Jaswal and Chief Peter Sloly prior to Jaswal being charged. Vanderzander spoke to Jaswal who was a superior and asked him to stop sexually harassing his spouse, who is also an OPS officer. When Jaswal did not stop, Vanderzander then confronted Sloly, Jaswal and other senior staff about the deplorable behaviour towards his wife, demanding it stop. He alleges that Sloly’s response was to professionally demean him, changing his shifts and docking his pay along with making him report to Jaswal. Vanderzander then filed a formal complaint against Sloly and the OPS with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). The OCPC are still investigating the complaint. Vanderzander has the full support of his spouse, OPS Constable Jennifer Vanderzander and many of his OPS colleagues.

In response to the rape and sexual misconduct allegations, OPS Chief Sloly and the OPSB hired a consultant to undertake an internal review. In December 2020, media reporting indicated that the consultation with police employees had determined that most OPS employees didn’t trust the Ottawa Police to handle its own complaints and asked specifically for a third party to be used. The OPSB then hired Janice Rubin and Rubin Thomlinson LLP for a six-month period to independently examine claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the police force.

Within a short period Rubin Thomlinson had received 21 inquiries and 14 complaints. However, the Ottawa Police Association complained that Chief Peter Sloly and OPS senior management had interfered in that independent process, rendering it tainted. They allege that the OPS had “screened out complaints” that should have been addressed by Rubin Thomlinson. The firm was expected to receive the complaints, screen them in or out and then investigate. Chief Sloly has yet explain to the public why complaints by OPS employees that are to be sent to a Rubin Thomlinson are first being vetted or ‘reviewed’ by the OPS Executive, prior to commencing their ‘independent’ investigation,” The Ottawa Police Association (union) says, “We have been advised that the OPS Executive has, in fact, screened out complaints and investigations are not occurring. The union has already filed a grievance on the matter. “If true, it makes a mockery of the credibility, independence and veracity of the work of Rubin Thomlinson. When the program was launched in December the OSP claimed the investigator “will independently investigate all claims, maintaining confidentiality of parties” and that “information will only be disclosed where necessary for the purposes of managing or investigating the complaint, or as required by law.”

In the meantime, the carnage continues. These are just some of the OPS officers who have been charged with serious crimes and are suspended with full pay and benefits as they await trial. There are too many cases to print:

• On February 12, 2021-an unnamed Ottawa police officer was suspended with pay from duty after being charged with domestic assault, mischief, and careless storage of a firearm.
The OPS and OPSB refuse to release the officer’s name in order ‘to protect’ the victim’s identity. In a statement, the Ottawa Police Service says it, “takes the issue of violence against women very seriously.”

• On January 14,2021, OPS Const. Eric Post pleaded guilty to four charges of assault and one charge of uttering threats. Post was initially charged with 32 criminal offences involving seven women, including sexual assault, forcible confinement, and uttering threats. He pleaded guilty to assaulting four women he met online, as well as threatening to dispose of one woman's body. Post told her that if she ever cheated on him, he could dump her body in the water and get away with it because he's a police officer. Another woman said Post grabbed her by the neck and slapped her face when she tried to leave following an argument and that when she went to strike back, Post told her she’d be assaulting a police officer.

Two of the assault charges involved Post trying to prevent women from leaving. In those cases, he grabbed the women by their wrists. The fourth assault occurred when Post grabbed a woman by her neck and chin and told her he “did not know whether he wanted to choke her or kiss her.” One of the victims said she was worried about filing a complaint with the Ottawa police after a two-year relationship ended with Post because she feared he “would make her life, and the lives of those around her, hell.”

The original charges against Post included sexual assault and pointing a firearm against the same woman. In October 2018, Post was released on bail conditions including house arrest and a ban from online dating sites. The Crown and defence later brokered a plea deal. Despite several complaints being made against Post through the OPS professional standards section during his 18 years with the service, he was never formally disciplined by the Ottawa Police. After his conviction, he was not immediately fired with cause and is still receiving full pay as he awaits sentencing.

• In July 2020, Constable Carl Keenan was convicted for a particularly brutal assault that occurred in December 2017 to his then girlfriend. He had been suspended with full pay by the Ottawa Police Service since the charge in 2017. He remains an officer with the OPS.

• In 2020, OPS Constable Jesse Hewitt is charged with nine counts of misconduct for taking videos of vulnerable women.

• In 2020, OPS Constable Yourick Brisebois-is charged with assault with a weapon and uttering threats.

• OPS Staff Sergeant Will Hinterberger is awaiting trial on 21 charges including sexual assault and forcible confinement.

• May 15, 2019, an Ottawa Police officer was charged by the OPP with assault and uttering death threats in relation to an alleged domestic incident. The OPSB and OPS Police did not release the man’s name in order ‘to protect’ the victim’s identity. The Ottawa Police Service Professional Standards Section is conducting its own investigation. It is not known if he is back on patrol or why the so-called investigation into the matter is taking so long.

Despite this shameful debacle, Deans and OPSB brain trust approved Sloly’s request for an additional $13.2 million to hire 31 more police officers in 2021 giving them the OPS a $332.5-million net operating budget in total. Sloly claimed he required the additional funds so he could meet OPS operational commitments. Neither Diane Deans nor any OPSB members thought to tell Sloly they would reject the request until he dealt with the 20 suspended OPS officers who are sitting at home getting fully paid to watch Netflix as they await trial.

Not one of the OPSB members or city councillors has called for a fully independent audit of the OPS to ascertain how a city department can pay out over $20 million in victims’ settlements and related costs over just a few short years to cover up criminal police misconduct.

Ironically, it was Deans herself who constantly and very harshly criticized Mayor Jim Watson, city staff and other councillors over a lack of transparency on the light rail transit file. Since being appointed Chair of the OPSB her preponderance for secrecy and not disclosing information to the public or hiding behind convenient rules created by her fellow politicians and police management to not disclose information would make her a star KGB agent. Her hypocrisy is only trumped by her vacuous behaviour and lack of understanding of her role as chair of the OPSB. Deans and the OPSB all seem to think they work for Chief Sloly — and this along speaks volumes about their utter incompetence. They do not seem to ‘get’ that he reports to them.

For his part, OPS Chief Peter Sloly has failed to gain any traction or trust for the OPS in the minority community who feel he betrayed them with his conduct over the Abdi case. He had the temerity to spin the yarn in a CJOH news interview with Graham Richardson after the verdict that Abdi Abdirahman had died of a heart attack. He refused to terminate Constable Daniel Montsion and has instead signaled that Constable Daniel Montsion will be returning to full duties as an OPS officer.

Paradoxically while completely denying any police responsibility for Abdi’s brutal beating death, Sloly and the OPSB then signed off on a settlement to the Abdi family in reportedly excess of $1 million taxpayers’ money, plus their legal fees. Both he and the OPSB have refused to disclose the full settlement amount to the public, saying it was confidential. On the same day, the OPSB announced the  settlement with the Abdi family, the OPS presented a report to the OPSB on how it would work with the public to develop a strategy, including consulting with Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, and mental health advocacy groups.

The report was widely criticized by community members and mental health professionals who cited the high lack of trust between the public and police after numerous cases where police have used excessive force in dealing with people with mental health issues. Most groups declined to participate in the so-called guiding council that would inform the strategy.

Sloly’s response was to spin another yarn claiming that right now certain community organizations “did not have the time, the capacity or the resources” to sit on the guiding council. That was a blatant lie. The truth is that is that resources are scarce for these groups because the money they could have used was sucked up by the OPS to pay for 20 discredited and criminally charged officers to sit at home and collect full pay while Sloly then demanded and got another $13.5 million from taxpayers to hire 31 additional officers to cover the workload. That is in addition to the Abdi settlement and multiple other victims’ settlements in the past two years. Those alone total almost $20 million that could have gone toward mental health needs in the city. Instead, it went to a bloated, unaccountable, cancerous OPS.

In the 2017 a report of the Independent Police Oversight Review by Justice Michael Tulloch made several important recommendations that have been completely ignored by the Ford government. One of them was that an independent office for adjudicating and prosecuting police should be established in the province to ensure that police charged with crimes would be prosecuted without favour or bias.

The system in place now is riddled with collegiality and the case of the women who were assaulted by Constable Post is a classic example of why the present system does not work. In his report Tulloch recommended establishing a separate office for prosecuting and adjudicating police cases in the province. This has not happened. Even the internal system of discipline used by police operates in secret and is chaired by a former police officer. The whole process remains a tragic farce when it comes to holding police accountable. The real losers are their victims.

Chief Peter Sloly has been on the job for 18 months. He was passed over for the top job previously in both Ottawa and Toronto and left policing after losing the top spot in Toronto in 2015. He returned as OPS Chief in 2019. He was brought in from Toronto and tends to view everything through a race lens, which is understandable given that he spent his entire police career in Toronto which has serious racial injustice issues. However, his arrogance and temperament problems became apparent early on in Ottawa.

Within months of arriving, he launched an internal investigation costing hundreds of thousands of dollars because he was upset about an offensive racist meme apparently directed at him that was sent out by an OPS employee. Each person on the meme was a person of colour who had been involved in police criminal misconduct. The investigation later determined that the person who sent it was an Indigenous OPS officer of Algonquin heritage.

However, when a gay man with aids was improperly and wrongly arrested by an OPS officer who then redacted and doctored evidence and changed witness statement breaking numerous rules of evidence under the Police Services Act, Sloly indicated to Ottawa Life Magazine that he could care less about it. Worse, after public outcry about that case, Sloly handed in a factually wrong and false report to the OPSB that cleared his officers in the incident.

The victim in the case, Rodney Mockler is now in the process of taking the OPS to court in a civil suit. Sadly, Chief Sloly’s preponderance for bending the truth and his temperament issues are now affecting his credibility in the community.

Despite the rapes and the sexual assaults and the misogyny the killing of Adbi Abdirahman, Ottawa City Councilors and OPSB members Diane Deans, Carol Anne Meehan and Rawlson King and their counterparts continue to do nothing but make excuses for the OPS. They are in some ways as bad as the police who commit these crimes because they can do something about it, and they remain timid and cowardly in words and deeds. In some cases, they just project stupidity.

In January, city councillor and OPSB Carol Anne Meehan got her foghorn out and demanded action because she wanted residents of Ottawa charged for not wearing masks on city ice rinks or for playing shinny outdoors during the COVID-19 lockdown. Yet we hear not a peep from her or Deans or Rawlson when their own city employees are being raped or assaulted by the very police they oversee. That alone speaks volumes about their twisted value system and priorities and why the problem of police misconduct in Ottawa is not going away anytime soon.

Photo: Mika Baumeister, Unsplash