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Jack Ewatski

Winnipeg Police continue their rogue ways

Chief Jack Ewatski

Key evidence that may have linked Terry Arnold to the 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel apparently went missing before it could be tested for DNA comparison, an internal police document obtained by the Free Press says. The evidence includes Stoppel's bra, underwear, shoes, socks and a discarded tissue believed to contain her killer's mucus, according to the 17-page report prepared Oct. 16, 2002 by Sgt. Andrew Mikolajewski.

The report focuses on the need for city hall to create an independent body to oversee sensitive investigations against police officers so there is no public perception of interference by senior officers. However, it also outlines the alleged difficulties Mikolajewski faced in trying to reinvestigate Stoppel's killing at a time when the police service was also dealing with a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Thomas Sophonow.

[The Mikolajewski Report exposes the shoddy work done on the Barbara Stoppel murder investigation and how Jack Ewatski helped block a proper re-investiagtion to protect a retired inspector and the secrets a warranted search of his premises would reveal.-- Sheila Steele]

Sophonow was tried three times for the strangulation of the 16-year-old Stoppel and spent four years in jail. He was exonerated in June 2000. Mikolajewski alleges in the report that crucial evidence that could have led to a murder charge against Arnold may have slipped through investigators' fingers. Arnold has been considered the prime suspect in Stoppel's death since 1999. He committed suicide a week ago in Victoria, B.C.

It was reported Wednesday that before he killed himself, Arnold was forced to provide a DNA sample to police. A Victoria police detective said Arnold provided a blood sample in compliance with a warrant, but wouldn't say why Arnold's DNA was wanted. "It is my opinion that we were not thorough in this case, nor did we display a great deal of integrity," Mikolajewski said in the report. "I do not believe that I was allowed to do my job. Further, both Barbara Stoppel and her family have not been served well."

The controversial report has been kept secret by the Winnipeg Police Service since the day it was filed. Two independent reviews have found there were no grounds for criminal or regulatory charges against police Chief Jack Ewatski and other high-ranking officers.

Those reviews have also not been publicly released. Stoppel's brother, Rick, said yesterday he obtained the Mikolajewski report from an anonymous source after he did a TV interview Tuesday on his sister's case. He said he released it to the media to show how police failed to properly investigate his sister's slaying in a St. Boniface doughnut shop Dec. 23, 1981.

"It's been nothing but a waste of time," he said. He and others said the issue of the missing evidence was known five years ago, but it never became public because police didn't want to tip off Arnold. They wanted him to think they had something on him so he'd confess.

But in his three-page suicide note, the 42-year-old convicted pedophile denied killing anyone and blamed the media for his woes. Rick Stoppel and police sources say now that Arnold is dead, there is no reason why details of the missing evidence and Mikolajewski's report can't be released. Ewatski said yesterday he was surprised an internal police document addressed only to him would find its way into Stoppel's hands.

He also defended his own and the department's handling of the Arnold investigation and said the allegations of interference made by Mikolajewski were later shown to be without merit. "The allegations made against me and the others were groundless," he said.

Specifically, Mikolajewski's report details his frustration in trying to get a search warrant to look for unspecified exhibits in the Stoppel case and to get permission to interview Arnold, who at the time was serving a life term for murder.

"The importance of obtaining a warrant and retrieving the exhibits cannot be over stressed since they may provide the offenders DNA (sic)," Mikolajewski said in the report.

Later in the report, Mikolajewski lists some of the more important exhibits outstanding in the case: Stoppel's bra, underwear, shoes, socks and the used Kleenex. To date, they have not been accounted for, according to sources. Ewatski said yesterday he was not prepared to talk about what evidence is missing in the case.

In the report, Mikolajewski does not accuse anyone of destroying or misplacing the items. He was unavailable for comment yesterday. Mikolajewski also said in the report that the Arnold investigation was hindered by the inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court judge Peter Cory into Sophonow's wrongful conviction, which started in the summer of 2000.

He said that because of the inquiry, there was a five-month delay in questioning Arnold. In his report, Cory blamed police "tunnel vision" for wrongly targeting Sophonow when evidence at the time pointed to Arnold. Days after Mikolajewski sent in his report, the Doer government asked retired Ontario Appeal Court judge Patrick Galligan to see if there was any basis for criminal charges, such as obstruction of justice against Ewatski and his then-executive assistant, Insp. Bob Hall. A month later Galligan said there was not. The City of Winnipeg's former chief administrative officer, Gail Stephens, also asked accounting firm Deloitte and Touche for an internal review of the police service's professional standards unit, which investigates police wrongdoing.

Kevin Tokarchuk was shot to death in his family's garage in May 2003

Winnipeg police under scrutiny

Police Chief Jack Ewatski has acknowleged the cops he fired had taped lawyers talking with their clients. The fired cops have brought their case before a labour arbitration board.

Presumably these cops were not doing anything that other cops don't do.

Ewatski, like Saskatoon Police Chief Sabo, claims to subscribe to the policy of "community policing." The PR would seem to be quite different from the actions. Look at the case of Brenda Campbell.

Of course it is the coldblooded murder of Kevin Tokarchuk which has brought some of their nefarious activities to light. Kevin was killed by drug-dealers because his brother had failed to pay a debt. The Winnipeg police were aware that Kevin was in danger but did nothing to warn the family. Police spin on Tokarchuk

Loren Schinkel is head of the police union which apparently thinks that the lawyer-taping cops were unfairly treated. Schinkel should know. He manufactured a nine page "confession" statement which he secretly provided to Florida police so they could indict her for murder. Monique Turenne exhausted all her efforts to avoid extradition to Florida and instead be tried in Canada.

In Canada, she could call Schinkel to the witness stand and have his actions cross-examined. In Florida, they apparently accept a perjured affidavit of a corrupt cop.

Of course, how could they know the man is a perjurer? He has the ear of Chief Ewatski who actually wrote to injusticebusters to defend him.

Internal police report must remain confidential: chief

WINNIPEG - Winnipeg Police Chief Jack Ewatski has refused to release an internal police report to a labour board hearing into the treatment of several police officers who were put on administrative leave.

The hearing was called in the aftermath of the death of Kevin Tokarchuk, 24, who was shot to death in May 2003 in what's believed to be a gang-related revenge killing.

Eight officers were put on paid leave for seven months after allegations surfaced that they had information about a plot to kill Tokarchuk, but failed to warn him or his family. All of the officers were eventually cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, and two have since retired. Some of the officers have filed a grievance against the city, saying putting them on leave, the length of time they were on leave, and their placement after leave was unreasonable and unfair.

Much of the hearing so far has focused on a report compiled by the Winnipeg Police Service's professional standards unit shortly after the allegations were made. To date, police administration has been unwilling to release the report because it says it contains information that could identify a confidential police source.

On Monday, Police Chief Jack Ewatski referred to the report, but wouldn't divulge its contents. He said taped conversations between police and an informant, police officers' notes and a tape of a lawyer/client conversation are in the report.

Ewatski said he put the officers on leave to maintain the integrity of the internal investigation.

"I wanted to emphasize and reinforce the fact that this action taken by the service was not done to punish, embarrass or discredit these members," he said.

Lawyers for the Winnipeg Police Association - the union that represents police officers - say they can't continue without seeing the report themselves.

No one has been arrested for Tokarchuk's shooting, which is believed to be related to the killing of a biker-gang member exactly one year earlier. In November 2004, Tokarchuk's brother was convicted of second-degree murder for that man's killing.

Chief Jack Ewatski

Officers taped lawyer-client conversation: police chief

Chief Jack EwatskiWINNIPEG - Winnipeg's legal community is still buzzing over a bombshell dropped by Police Chief Jack Ewatski in testimony before a hearing on Monday.

During the labour board arbitration hearing into a grievance by six Winnipeg police officers who were put on administrative leave after allegations surfaced that they had information about a plot to kill a Winnipeg man, Kevin Tokarchuk, but failed to warn the man or his family. Tokarchuk was killed in May 2003.

On Monday, Ewatski said officers may also have committed a criminal act: "To be more specific, the videotaping of a privileged and private communication between a lawyer and a client."

After an investigation, a Crown attorney from Alberta recommended the officers not be charged, but defence lawyers like Jay Prober are fuming over the revelation.

"It's frightening, quite frankly, that it happened," says Prober. "It's illegal, it's criminal, it's contrary to the Criminal Code, it breaches the Charter of Rights and it certainly flies in the face of the police's own procedure."

Last June, the Manitoba's Crown stayed charges against five Hells Angels after concerns about police actions.

Four months before that trial ended, Crown attorney Bob Morrison sent defence lawyers a letter, saying police officers may have acted improperly in dealing with a police informant.

Morrison wrote the officers' conduct was arguably unethical, in breach of internal police regulations, in breach of the Charter, and in one respect, arguably criminal.

No one involved in the case would say whether the actions of officers involved in the Hells Angels case are linked to the Tokarchuk investigation.

Chief Ewatski he will face cross-examination at the arbitration hearing on Wednesday.

Chief Jack Ewatski

Chief stands firm, refuses to divulge documents

WINNIPEG - Winnipeg's police chief refuses to turn over documents he used when he placed eight officers on leave.

Jack Ewatski was back on the witness stand Wednesday at the arbitration hearing looking into his decision.

Over and over, police union lawyer Keith LaBossiere demanded Ewatski make the documents public, but Ewatski replied that would be illegal.

"We are not going to, as a police service, break the law in this matter by releasing information that could identify this informant," he said. "Would you suggest that we break the law to do so?"

LaBossiere filed a motion that the union should win the grievance because Ewatski is being un-cooperative. He claims it's impossible to properly cross-examine the chief without the key documents.

Arbitrator Gavin Wood has made no decision on the motion.

The officers were put on paid leave during an investigation of their conduct. They allegedly learned in advance about a plot to kill Kevin Tokarchuk in retaliation for a murder his brother was eventually convicted of committing.

The hearig continues today.

Ewatski can't lose cloud

Police chief again under scrutiny in murder cases

The new year finds Winnipeg police Chief Jack Ewatski in the same spot he was in this time last year - under a cloud.

Last year, it was a report by a junior officer that accused Ewatski and senior officers of interfering in sensitive investigations, including the one looking into the wrongful conviction of Thomas Sophonow for the still unsolved 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel.

An independent review of the officer's concerns later exonerated Ewatski and the way he runs his police force.

Now, the murder of Kevin Tokarchuk is hanging over the chief's head. Tokarchuk was shot dead May 12 in a suspected gang revenge killing. A few days later, an allegation from within the police service surfaced in the media that officers may have been warned about Tokarchuk's death, but took no action.

It's alleged an informant told officers of a plot to kill Tokarchuk, but that no one told Tokarchuk or his family about it.

Ewatski put eight officers on paid leave - they returned to work before Christmas - as investigators began looking at whether there was any merit to the allegation, and if so, whether any internal police procedures were broken. Meanwhile, Tokarchuk's killer remains free.

Also hanging over the chief is criticism that he did nothing to make known evidence that could have helped James Driskell win a new trial as early as 1993.

Ewatski purportedly had evidence that one of the witnesses against Driskell at his 1991 murder trial had a secret immunity deal, a deal that was not disclosed to the jury. Driskell was only released on bail by a judge a month ago. A decision on a new trial is expected soon.

Ewatski's roles in the Tokarchuk affair and the Driskell case will play themselves out over the course of 2004.

Thrown into this is the fact Ewatski has yet to renew his contract with the city. He is now almost into his third month working without a new contract - the one he signed more than five years ago expired Nov. 3.

All he will say about it is that he is still in discussions with the city - nothing other than that has changed.

The one thing he will say unequivocally is this perceived delay has absolutely nothing to do with the new collective agreement for rank-and-file police.

That agreement is now in the hands of arbitrator Arne Peltz. At the opening of the public arbitration hearing Oct. 30, Winnipeg Police Association lawyer Bill Olson said the union believed Ewatski was going to get a $30,000.00 raise in his new contract, going from $150,000.00 to $180,000.

The thinking at city hall was that spin doctors, there are more spin docs at city hall and the police service than ever before - decided to delay Ewatski's contract announcement until well after Peltz handed down the retroactive two-year deal for rank-and-file officers, which will probably be some time in early February.

The reason is that the city would be embarrassed if news broke of them paying Ewatski that much while at the same time the union complained of over-worked junior constables needing GST rebate cheques to buy groceries.

Besides finding out in the new year whether Ewatski will still be chief, police will also learn if and when they'll start to get new district buildings.

Ewatski said a report will be tabled at city hall some time in April that will outline a timetable on how the police service and the city can best proceed with the reorganization under a four-district pla, renovating the outside of the downtown Public Safety Building, and the creation of a 911 emergency back-up call centre.

The four-district model will reduce the police operating districts from six, and result in three new police buildings being built in east Winnipeg, the north end and south Winnipeg.

Ewatski has said the new buildings are needed to accommodate male and female officers in more modern surroundings.

Second, the Tyndall stone exterior of the PSB is falling off. The plan now is to move several investigative units from the five-storey Princess Street building as workers renovate one side of the building at a time.

With that, the 911 centre has to move out of the building during the entire construction. Emergency calls can't be properly handled with jack-hammering in the next room.

The city hopes to create a 911 backup centre, likely somewhere out of the downtown, to house the call-takers and dispatchers so there is no interruption of emergency services. This facility would become a permanent backup, so that if the downtown is ever evacuated, call-takers and dispatchers could leave the PSB and continue working.

The other thing that will happen in the new year - perhaps the most important thing - is that the war on organized crime will continue, unseen for the most part, but effective all the same.

An example of that is how quickly the gang unit recovered a handgun stolen out of a city police officer's vehicle last Oct. 10. Within four days, the gang unit chased down the gun and the thieves responsible for taking it before it could be used in a crime.

Also, a joint Winnipeg police-RCMP unit is quietly working out of a secret location gathering evidence against the drug gangs, most notably the Hells Angels, that bring about 100 kilos of cocaine a month into the city and fuel the growing crack cocaine trade.

Investigators have already arrested several high-profile gang associates, specifically members of the Zig Zag Crew and LHS (Loyalty, Honour and Silence), and charged them with a variety of gang and drug conspiracy charges.

While arrests haven't plugged the flow of cocaine and marijuana into the city, they have reduced the level of gang and drug-related violence on the street.

Ewatski said the Winnipeg police and RCMP hope to co-operate more in the new year, taking a page from the hugely successful integrated child exploitation unit in which officers snoop out child pornography on the Internet.

Ewatski said the same success could be duplicated in bringing officers together to work on unsolved cases, like homicides, and keeping track of the growing list of high-risk sexual offenders.