Law & Disorder: Police as Thieves

Law & Disorder: Police as Thieves

By N Oji Mzilikazi

January 26, 2012

(Originally published in the Montreal Community Contact Volume 22, Number 02)

Law, respect for rules, order, and justice are the pillars upon which a society is able to maintain social stability and a good quality of life. When it comes to criminality by law enforcement officials, the justice system is all too willing to go easy on cops.

MUC (Montreal Urban Community) Police Constable Gilles Frenette, a 20-year police veteran stole two shirts from The Bay. Frenette was fired by the MUC. Convicted, the judge gave him an unconditional discharge, which freed him from having a criminal record.

Since the judge cut him slack; he didn’t have a record, the police union believed his employer should as well. The MUC rightly refused to reinstate him. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. In August 1985 it ruled his dismissal was too severe. That precedent changed policing culture for the worst. It made it extremely difficult to fire police officers over wrongdoing, and engendered an entitlement to impunity.

Police have an entrenched culture of protecting their own. Hence the proclivity of law enforcement agencies to suppress police misdeeds, anything that puts them in bad light, and their long-standing opposition to inquiries of any kind.

The police so have the justice system by the balls that in 2004 RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, halted an RCMP investigation into allegations that $30 million of its employee pension fund was mismanaged.

In April 2008, Barbara George, the RCMP chief human resources officer was found in contempt of Parliament. She gave false and misleading testimony when she appeared before the House of Commons in regards to pension issues.

Julian Fantino, the former Toronto Police Chief and commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is now a member of parliament. During his reign as Toronto’s chief of police, the force was rocked by three major corruption scandals to which clarity was never brought to bear.

Fantino was protective of his officers to any and all criticism. Officer misconduct was always an isolated case and not a pattern of police misconduct. In 2005, Fantino pressured Ryerson University to get “Bad Cop, No Donut” banned from its campus radio. The program aired stories of police misdeeds.

On Jan. 7, 2004, Sgt. John Schertzer, Constables Joseph Miched, Ray Pollard, Steve Correia, Richard Benoit and Ned Maodus of an elite Toronto Police drug squad team were arrested and criminally charged with offences including obstruction of justice, assault, extortion, perjury and robbery related to their work between 1997 and 2002.

Citing delays, all charges were stayed by Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer. The officers were freed without trial. The travesty resulted in an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Nordheimer’s decision was overturned, and a new trial ordered for five of the six original defendants.

In January 2012, the biggest police corruption case in Toronto’s history, featuring defendants Schertzer, Miched, Pollard, Correia, and Maodus went before the courts.

An April 2011 wiretap discovered that a retired police intelligence officer was attempting to sell the confidential identities of about 2,000 undercover police informants as well as undercover officers to the Mafia, for $1 million.

The said officer was arrested in October 2011 at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport prior to boarding a flight to Costa Rica. The police found the list on his computer. One must assume he was on his way to shop or sell the list. No charges were laid.

While investigations are a quiet matter, the hush, hush was such that the breach in police security with the potential of extremely damaging repercussions, and the former officer’s name was kept out of the news and newspapers. That is until January 17, 2012, when it was published in a Montreal newspaper.

The very next day, the officer in question, retired Sergeant-Detective Ian Davidson, a special investigations unit intelligence officer, and 33-year veteran of the Montreal police force with an unblemished record of service, allegedly committed suicide by cutting his neck with a “sharp object” at Laval’s Hotel Chateauneu.

Then again, even if his death was really murder, we would never know. Murder would open up a can of worms and put the police department under intense scrutiny. Something all law enforcement agencies shy away from.

Interestingly, former Montreal Police Chief Jacques Duchesneau was quoted in a newspaper as remembering “Davidson as an honest guy.” As any behavioural psychologist can attest, older people do not start engaging in deviant behaviour out of the blue. The seeds had to have been sown in childhood/youth.

Police Chief Marc Parent said Davidson failed in his attempt, and called the matter “a really exceptional case.” Parent’s statements deserve to be taken with a grain of salt. Although the top-secret list was discovered on Davidson’s computer in October, police found a treasure trove of ultra-sensitive documents and computerized data in the hotel room.

Given that his home had been raided for incriminating evidence, those newly discovered documents make it impossible to emphatically say that nothing was sold, or that no informant, undercover officer or police operation were compromised.

There is nothing exceptional about Davidson’s case. The list of Canadian cops working with criminal organizations or aiding and abetting criminals, or being criminals themselves is rather long. Furthermore, as evidenced by the 1979 cease and desist order from Andre De Luca, chief of operations for the MUC Police, Montreal police has a history of detectives running their own secret department.

In April 2001 MUC Detective-Sergeant Alain Desrosiers, a 23-year veteran and two private detectives; Michel Charbonneau and Claude Aubin, a retired MUC police detective-sergeant with 33-years of service, and former police partner of Desrosiers, were arrested and accused of passing confidential police information to organized crime groups, including bikers and the Russian mob.

In lightening speed justice, the case was adjudicated three days later. Desrosiers walked away with a conditional sentence of two years less a day, and a six months curfew. Aubin was sentenced to two years in prison, and Charbonneau received an 18-month conditional sentence.

One would think a most grievous penalty would be in place for any law enforcement official caught selling information to criminals, and judges would be more than happy to throw the book at them. For, not only could police operations be compromised or jeopardized, but the lives of informants, undercover officers and those in uniforms stand to be endangered or taken.

The slap on the wrist for Desrosiers and the light as a feather sentencing for Aubin was a travesty of justice. It points to collusion between prosecutors, the judge, defence lawyers, police interest and the defendants. Both Desrosiers and Aubin should’ve lost pensions, houses and dogs if any, and do serious hard time.

Who is to know how much money the mob was able to amass, and how many persons might’ve died or escaped arrest because of the inside information Desrosiers provided?

A thorough investigation would’ve led to policy changes that would’ve made it impossible for the likes of Davidson to get his hands on confidential information. Stiff sentences would serve as a deterrent to any officer contemplating selling confidential information. The quick trial was about the police saving face and possibly preventing Desrosiers and Aubin from exposing the ugly and criminal face of policing.

In 1995, Montreal Police Officer Jean Belval was busted for illegally checking out the police database and fraud. In dropping a dime on misdeeds by the police, he incriminated himself as planting hashish on suspects and committing perjury over 300 times.

In March 2005, Claude Aubin, representing a group of five ex-police officers held a press conference. He called upon the provincial government to hold an inquiry into the methods the police used in Operation Amigo to dismantle the Bandidos biker gang. Traitorously, he was concerned about the righteousness of police procedure.

In 2008, RCMP employee Angelo Cecere, who translated wiretapped conversations from Italian, was arrested for passing information to the Montreal Mafia. In September 2009, Mario Lambert, a Montreal police homicide detective was charged with passing information in police databases to criminals, and reassigned to police administrative duties until the court process was over.

In October 2009, Montreal Police Officer Nancy Lauzon, whose father was arrested in Operation Axe and faced “charges of conspiracy, drug trafficking and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization,” was charged with “accessing a computer database for the wrong reasons.” She was restricted to administrative duties.

Montreal Constable Pierre Goulet worked at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport. He also worked for Colombian cocaine kingpin, Elias Cobos-Muñoz criminal organization. From 2000 to 2002, Goulet used his police badge to avoid suspicion and transport millions of dollars through the Quebec-New York State border.

When arrested, Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme made it a point to emphasize that Goulet criminal activity took place outside his hours of duty. In other words he didn’t taint his badge or facilitated the importation of cocaine at the airport. Goulet was sentenced to a mere 30 months in prison for drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy.

In May 1985, RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Sauvé, a 25-year veteran, and the number three man in the RCMP Montreal drug squad was found guilty of possession of eighty kilograms of hash.

In May 1991 high-profile criminal defence lawyer Sidney Leithman, whose clients included drug cartels, Montreal West End gang, the mafia, murderers, drug dealers and bank robbers was shot to death in his Saab convertible while waiting for a traffic light to go green.

Soon after Leithman’s killing, RCMP drug squad officer Jorge Leite, who sold information to drug cartels, including the one run by Colombian “Godmother” Ines Barbosa, fled to Portugal. Leite’s boss, Inspector Claude Savoie, an officer for 27 years, and who headed the RCMP Montreal drug squad committed suicide.

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