Durham Regional Police Chief Paul Martin to step down amid inquiry into alleged misconduct on the force

 

Chief Paul Martin

Durham Police Chief Paul Martin announced his resignation Thursday afternoon β€” more than a year after the announcement of an investigation into alleged “serious misconduct” on the force.

Martin is expected to continue in his role until September, at which point Durham’s police services board will appoint an interim chief.

Martin did not give a specific reason why he’s stepping down, but said “the timing is right for myself and my family.”

Dafonte Miller before and after

However, the announcement of his resignation comes after Ontario appointed an administrator to oversee the Durham Regional Police Service in May 2019 amid an investigation into allegations of “corruption, criminality and serious misconduct” including bullying and intimidation among members of the top brass, including the chief, according to a lawyer representing the complainants.

The allegations against the force were contained in an order signed by Linda Lamoureux, executive director of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).

The preliminary findings alleged the “senior administration allowed, tolerated, encouraged, participated in, and/or was willfully blind to workplace harassment of all kinds, intimidation of subordinates, retaliatory discipline, and potential alleged criminal conduct and/or misconduct under the [Police Services Act].”

The commission outlined 15 areas it would investigate, including whether the board had “appropriate oversight” over the hiring and contract extensions of senior leadership; whether a senior officer provided false testimony to gain favour with the chief, and whether the chief and the chief administrative officer “improperly influenced and/or prevented investigations into alleged violations of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.”

After learning of the investigation, Martin said he would ensure that it would be done “as fairly and without bias as possible.”

Questions were also raised over how Durham police handled the Dafonte Miller case and why it took so long for the province’s Special Investigations Unit to be informed of the teen’s alleged beating, for which a Toronto police officer has now been found guilty of assault.

Julian Falconer, the lawyer for Miller’s family, alleged that Durham police failed to investigate the case properly, saying they failed to get a statement from a credible eyewitness.

Miller was chased down a street and hit repeatedly with a steel pipe in Whitby on Dec. 28, 2016. He suffered a broken nose, jaw and wrist and was blinded in one eye.

Exactly six months later in July, 2017, Martin announced he had asked his deputy, Uday Jaswal, to launch an investigation into how his force handled the case.

And in August of the same year, the force also launched a new procedure for notifying Ontario’s police watchdog when an officer is involved in an incident.

Toronto police officer Michael Theriault, who was off duty the night he confronted Miller, was convicted of assault in the case last month, but found not guilty of aggravated assault or obstruction of justice. The officer’s brother, Christian Theriault, was acquitted of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

The news of Martin’s retirement comes after Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced his resignation on June 8.

Saunders is officially  stepping dow as of July 31 β€” eight months before his contract was set to expire in 2021.

The two chiefs are stepping down amid calls across Canada and the United States for changes to policing.

Those calls for police reform follow countless protests over the the deaths of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis in May, as well as Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who died after Toronto police were called to her apartment, and Ejaz Choudry, who was shot by Peel police.

Two Toronto city councillors brought forward a motion to cut Toronto police funding by 10 per cent and use that money for community resources instead, but that motion failed by a vote of 16 to eight.

Last Thursday, the Toronto Police Services Board launched a series of virtual town halls to allow the public to speak about reform and public safety, as calls in the city grow for greater police accountability. You can read about the first virtual town hall here.