Pubdate: Fri, 20 Feb 2004
Source: Port Perry Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2004 Port Perry Star Co. Ltd.
Author: Rik Davie


Three of Durham's most highly decorated police officers are under
suspension after they refused to take part in videotaped interviews as
part of a 12 month investigation into allegations of wrong doing on
Durham's highly successful Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).

On Tuesday (Feb. 17) Corporate spokesperson for the DRPS, Dave Selby,
confirmed what sources close to the case had told The Star earlier in
the week.... that three officers had, after legal consultation,
declined to be interviewed by OPP investigators.

Mr. Selby was unable, however, to confirm or deny that the interviews
were to be taped.

The investigation into the unit, which was responsible for a huge
number of marijuana grow house closures and the recovery of as much as
$1 million in fraudulently obtained hydro fees in the time leading up
to February 2003, began after allegations by a former member of the
unit, according to sources close to the case.

According to information obtained by The Star, the allegations could
have an effect on over 100 cases now before the courts and some
officers now under suspension are scheduled to testify in on going
court cases.

After 12 months, members of the OPP team looking into the allegations
at the request of senior DRPS officers, had begun to request
interviews with former members of the unit who had been transferred to
other duties during the investigation.

"Four former members of the drug unit were ordered to provide witness
interviews in conjunction with the current OPP investigation," Mr.
Selby said. "After consulting with council three of these officers
declined to participate and, as a result of that they have been
suspended from duty with pay."

Doug Cavanaugh, President of the 900 member Durham Regional Police
Association, said, in a prepared statement that the year-long
investigation had taken a toll on his members. "The DRPA has lost any
and all confidence in the OPP to conduct a fair and impartial
investigation," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "And as such, supports their
member's principled response and the decision to exercise their
constitutional rights."

Mr. Cavanaugh told The Star in an interview this week that he
understands why his members refused to participate.

When asked if his members had declined due to the videotaping of the
interviews, Mr. cavanaugh refused to comment.

"Let me say this," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "These officers were treated
differently, in our view, from the other members of the service
questioned or any other citizen. They have legal council and this
decision was based on best advise from that council."

The investigation was announced by the DRPS in February of 2003 and
since then between 50 and 60 witnesses have been interviewed by OPP
investigators. Only recently have the actual officers involved with
the DEU been asked to give statements.

Mr. Cavanaugh told The Star that he hopes the suspensions will be

"They are suspended, not charged," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "I am not sure
how long they can remain under suspension or if there is a time frame
but it is certainly in their best interests if a decision is made soon
as to whether or not to lay charges."

Under the Police Services Act officers can be suspended pending
charges and are required to report to work and sign in each shift at
which time they simply go home, according to Mr. Cavanaugh.

Sources close to the DRPS are filled with rumours about what
instituted the original charges but no statements from either side in
the case have been forthcoming while the investigation drags on.

No names of officers have been released but Mr. Selby told The Star
that could change.

"When and if charges are laid and the media requests it, we would
release the officers names," Mr. Selby said. "The Durham Regional
Police Service prides itself on being an open and accountable body and
when things of this type happen we do our best within legal parameters
to keep the public informed."

Mr. Cavanaugh said that the matter was vital to all of his

"Our members take their jobs seriously in protecting the public," Mr.
Cavanaugh said, "but they should not, and will not, give up their
civil rights when they punch in to work their shifts. I have
absolutely no doubt that these officers will be cleared of any wrong
doing. They are among our finest." 
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