Pubdate: Thu, 08 Dec 2005
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2005 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Mike McIntyre
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


Off-Duty Officers Jammed Hearing

DOZENS of off-duty Winnipeg police officers were left out in the cold
yesterday after a judge refused them entry into a misconduct hearing
that has been overshadowed by allegations of group

Provincial court Judge Murray Howell made good on his promise to
create a more "comfortable" courtroom atmosphere by only allowing
about 20 spectators inside the Law Enforcement Review Act hearing. The
crowd included about a dozen officers, along with a handful of
reporters and members of the public.

Keith Labossiere, a lawyer representing the police service, tried to
get Howell to open the doors to a huge crowd of officers standing
outside in the hallway who had attended the first two days of the
hearing only to be turned away yesterday.

He claimed such a ban violated the basic rights of the officers, who
have come out in droves to support their colleagues and ensure "the
process that judges them is fair."

"By preventing them access, they may begin to feel intimidated by the
process," said Labossiere, who suggested another venue be found that
could accommodate more spectators. "This is a public hearing. They
have a right to attend."

Howell refused, citing his own reservations and the concerns of the
three men who have alleged they were viciously beaten by Winnipeg
police officers in May 2002.

Marc Fillion, Alex Chung and Larry Stringer were literally surrounded
Monday and Tuesday by nearly 65 off-duty officers who were allowed to
pack inside the courtroom and sit in extra chairs which were brought

The trio -- who are all acting as their own lawyers after being
refused Legal Aid -- claimed they were intimidated by the large swarm
of police officers, who they say have given them "dirty looks" and
even followed them around on breaks.

Fillion, Stranger and Chung claim they were attacked for no apparent
reason inside an inner-city Winnipeg home by as many as eight
officers. They have described a brutal beating, which included being
repeatedly kicked, punched and struck with a gun and

Doctors are expected to begin testifying tomorrow about various
injuries the men sustained.

Fillion and Stranger were eventually released by police without being
charged. Chung was found to be in breach of a previous court order.

All three men filed complaints with LERA, the agency that investigates
complaints against on-duty police officers. LERA then referred the
matter to a judicial hearing, which is set to last two weeks.

The hearing is scheduled to last two weeks.
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