Tribunal hearing for Supt. Stacy Clarke continues at police headquarters

    Stacy Clarke

By Neil Armstrong

The first day of the tribunal hearing of Superintendent Stacy Clarke, which was open to the public, drew a large contingent of members of the Jamaican Canadian Association on Monday to the headquarters of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) in support of the veteran police officer with 26 years of service in Toronto.

They were there to show their support for the first Black woman to serve as superintendent in the history of the police service, and at points they applauded or vocalized their reaction to something said and had to be reminded by the adjudicator of the nature of the occasion.

Scott Hutchinson, lawyer for the Toronto Police Service, outlined the seven charges under the Police Services Act towhich Clarke pleaded guilty in September 2023. They include three counts of breach of confidence, three of discreditable conduct, and one of insubordination.

From left: Gifford Walker, Stacy Clark, Herman Stewart and Roy Williams

These resulted from her involvement in the 2021 promotional process for constables seeking to be sergeants; Clarke took pictures of interview questions and answers and shared them with six Black police constables that she was mentoring and who had applied for promotions. She sat on one of the interview panels.

Hutchinson said her conduct was incredibly serious and would invite in a normal court a penalty of dismissal and raises the question whether a senior officer who engaged in conduct like Clarke has a realistic role in the service in the future.

Hutchinson said that is not the penalty that the TPS will be asking Robin McElary-Downer, a retired deputy chief with the South Simcoe Police Service who is the adjudicator at the tribunal, to consider.

He told the deputy chief that she will hear evidence through a variety of witnesses about the character of Clarke, the challenges she has faced as a trailblazer, and the pernicious problem of anti-Black racism.

The lawyer said anti-Black racism is real and that the TPS and its board recognize that and have committed themselves to addressing it while understand that it is a work-in-progress.

Hutchinson said Police Chief Myron Demkiw believes that Clarke still has work to do within the organization and that there is room for her there, but that the penalty must be proportionate to the seriousness of the conduct.

A small part of the support group at Clark’s trial

He is seeking a demotion of Clarke by two ranks to staff sergeant for a period of one year, a return to the rank of inspector at the end of that year, and eligibility to apply for further promotion after doing a second year at the rank of inspector, “but no automatic return to the position of superintendent.”

However, Joseph Markson, Clarke’s lawyer, said her efforts were to level the playing field and he would provide evidence to consider why a respected senior police officer with an exemplary record of service would commit a series of misconduct in this manner —when all hope was lost for securing fairness for six Black constables she mentored for the promotional process.

In his submission, Markson said the appropriate penalty for Supt. Clarke involves demotion to the rank of inspector in the range of one year to 18 months with automatic reinstatement to the rank of superintendent.

Markson said Clarke’s experience as a Black female officer and senior officer in the Toronto Police Service and the complex array of challenges she faced, endured, and overcame as she was promoted from the rank of constable to become the first Black female superintendent in the history of the service should be considered.

He said there is a straight line connecting the existence and history of systemic discrimination towards blacks, systemic discrimination in policing towards blacks, Supt. Clarke’s lived experience as a black female officer and senior officer in Toronto Police Service, all of which impacted the misconduct to which she pleaded guilty.

Markson said the unvarnished reality of Supt. Clarke’s experience within the Toronto Police Service and her genuine perception that inequitable standards were impacting the promotional process rendered her silent and helpless in advancing the merits of six black candidates that she was mentoring.

“Few know what it is to succeed in policing as a black female officer, few know what it is to have your successes second-guessed,” he said, “by your peers and members of the community because you are black.”

Markson said the true acuity and subjective impact of such stressors on Supt. Clarke are difficult to appreciate without context.

Among the character witnesses Markson called on Monday were retired TPS police chief Mark Saunders, retired TPS superintendent Dave McLeod, and former president of the Jamaican Canadian Association Audrey Campbell.

Saunders said Clarke had a great record of being very good at whatever she does, her assignments were exception and no shortcuts taken. He described Clarke’s misconduct as being “totally out of character by any stretch of the imagination” and said her leadership was excellent.

Saunders noted that in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Clarke was responsible for building relationships with communities and therefore when 10,000 people marched in the city, Clarke provided leadership in her uniform and in ensuring safety among angry protesters who were willing to listen to her.

McLeod said Clarke’s conduct was an “absolute aberration” after years of seeing policies and discussions ad nauseum that amounted to nothing sustainable; he described what Supt Clarke did as “an act of desperation.” He said he was impressed with her work ethic and genuine desire to be fair.

Campbell said when the Police and Engagement Review (PACER) started, Supt. Clarke helped to navigate the relationship between police officers and the community.

“What kept us at the table was that Stacy held to her word. She never backed away from any issues.”

Campbell described Supt. Clarke as “a beacon of integrity.” “Everybody has lapses in judgement that they regret; the thing is she didn’t do it for her, not one of her actions were self-serving.”

Professor Wendell Adjetey of McGill University, and Supt.  Clarke will be called to testify on May 8 and the tribunal hearing should wrap up this week.