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Little movement on Peel Police investigation into officers

By Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun

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In the harshest terms, judges have called them liars and fabricators, and yet these Peel police officers continue on the job with no repercussions.

How can that be?

Soon after taking over the job, Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans vowed that all allegations of misconduct against her police officers would now be treated seriously. “It is imperative that we maintain the public’s trust and confidence,” she said last year.

But those words ring hollow when more than a year later, little has been done.

Last April, the chief ordered a probe by her professional standards branch after the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the tossing of a case against an alleged pimp because the trial judge found the cops had concocted evidence and lied on the stand. “The police conduct in this case was so egregious that only a stay could serve society’s interest in preserving the integrity of the judicial system,” ruled Ontario’s highest court.

The trial judge was scathing in his criticism of the officers testifying against Courtney Salmon.

Salmon was charged in June 2010 after a 17-year-old accused him of forcing her to work as a prostitute. At the preliminary inquiry, Const. George Wang testified that he’d seized the girl’s fake ID from Salmon’s wallet and he had the notes and property tags to prove it. It was a damning claim – it would tie the accused pimp directly to the teen.

But it wasn’t true.

Just the day before his trial, defence lawyer Jennifer Penman learned the 17-year-old gave her fake ID to police hours before Salmon’s arrest. Notes from the detective sergeant at the station showed he was one of at least three officers who knew the fake licence and citizenship cards had been turned over to investigators, and not seized from Salmon at all.

“It is more likely than not that Constable Wang, together with one or more other police officers, concocted a scheme to make it appear that the false identification of the complainant was found in Mr. Salmon’s wallet,” Superior Court Justice Douglas Gray ruled in staying the charges.

“It would be difficult to conceive of conduct that would more distinctly shock the conscience of the community than the fabrication of evidence by the police.”

The chief promised an investigation. That was 14 months ago – and Wang and the others remain on the job. According to the Sunshine List, Wang made $117,000 last year.

Peel Police were asked repeatedly for an update on what is happening in the year-old internal affairs probe. After two days of emails, their spokesman said they do not have a response.

The lack of police repercussions doesn’t surprise lawyer Leora Shemesh. “Nothing happens out there. It’s unbelievable how much they get away with it.”

She was involved in a notorious case a few years ago where five Peel drug cops were accused by Superior Court Justice Deena Baltman of lying under oath as part of a cover-up following a 2009 drug sting in Mississauga.

Shemesh represented Tan-Hung Dinh, who avoided a prison sentence for drug trafficking after the judge found Peel officers beat him, searched his home illegally and then came to court and lied about it.

In her judgment, Baltman said the five officers “essentially colluded and then committed perjury, en masse. This must be addressed in a concrete way.”

Following the judge’s stinging rebuke, Peel’s internal affairs launched an investigation. In October, 2012, the chief announced that no criminal charges would be laid but the probe would continue to see if the officers violated the Police Services Act.

Incredibly, they were found to be in the clear once again. There would be no internal discipline – despite a Superior Court judge who blatantly accused them of perjury: “The police lied under oath in order to cover up the illegal search, and persisted in that lie when confronted with the most damning of evidence,” Baltman said. “Misbehaviour of this nature, particularly when committed by police officers, strikes at the heart of the administration of justice.”

Yet their bosses in Peel gave them a pass.

“Unless you have them on video, they will never be charged,” complains Shemesh. “It gives them a licence to do whatever they want.”

Read Mandel Wednesday through Saturday.

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