Sault Police Tight-Lipped about Recent Police Services Act Disciplinary Hearing
Hearing(s) Allegedly Took Place November 25, 26
The Sault Ste. Marie Police Services (SSMPS) is not responding to requests for more information about recent Police Services Act (PSA) disciplinary hearing(s) related to one or more of its members.
As indicated by the Professional Standards section of the SSMPS website, a PSA disciplinary hearing was scheduled for November 25 and 26, 2021. To date, no details have been released and the results of the hearing are still pending.
PSA hearings are meant to be public. Notice of the PSA hearing was only posted on the SSMPS website. It is unclear whether or not local journalists were in attendance. The PSA establishes a framework of professional standards for policing in Ontario.
The Office of the Independent Review Director (OIPRD) is one of three police oversight agencies in Ontario and the primary organization that accepts complaints from the public related to policing.
It fielded just over 4,000 complaints from the Ontario public in 2020. 31 of these complaints were related to members of the SSMPS. To date, there have been 34 complaints against members of the SSMPS this year, according to the most recent Police Services Board meeting reports from November.
Not all complaints are deemed meritorious by the OIPRD. Some may be frivolous. Others are dealt with informally if the alleged misconduct is not severe. A small handful are typically ‘screened in’ if the alleged misconduct is serious enough and the complaint is meritorious.
Asked if it could provide any additional information related to the recent PSA hearing, the OIPRD noted that the PSA establishes a framework in which “disciplinary hearings are conducted by the police services.” As such, “the OIPRD does not manage disciplinary hearings.” If disciplinary hearings are based on a complaint from the public, however, the results of the hearing will be posted on the OIPRD website.
Multiple requests for more information sent directly to the Manager of Corporate Communications, Planning, and Research at the SSMPS, Lincoln Louttit, went unanswered.
Alleged police misconduct is currently the focus of a 6.5 million dollar civil suit against the SSMPS.
Timothy Mitchell sustained serious injuries as a result of his interaction with the SSMPS in 2016. Although the Special Investigations Unit found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the SSMPS officers involved, Justice John Condon threw out evidence related to Mitchell’s associated criminal charges in 2018.
Justice Condon also found that SSMPS members used excessive force during Michell’s arrest and violated his Charter rights when they failed to offer him an opportunity to speak to a lawyer.
Reporting on Mitchell’s interaction with the SSMPS led to a dozen officers launching a separate 1.5 million dollar civil suit against a now-defunct local news website, Northern Hoot, and its publisher. The officers allege that several articles written about Mitchell’s arrest were libelous and defamatory.
The officers’ lawyer, Wayne Chorney, recently described the suit as “dormant” while he awaits further instructions from the Sault Ste. Marie Police Association, the union that represents rank and file members of the SSMPS.
Mitchell’s suit will move forward with scheduling for a pre-trial hearing in January of 2022.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Stay tuned for an in-depth investigative series focused on police accountability in Sault Ste. Marie in mid-2022.