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Toronto Police 2005

Drug-squad case officer arrested

A Toronto police officer awaiting trial in the Toronto drug-squad case set for January, was arrested Thursday on charges of assault, London police say.

Const. Ned Maodus was charged after a road rage incident in London, Ont. last week, Const. Brian Armstrong said yesterday.

Thirteen charges - ranging from sexual assault to possession of a prohibited weapon - were stayed against Maodus earlier this year by a Brampton judge because the charges took too long to come to trial.

Maodus is one of six officers charged with criminal offences during their work in the Central Field Command Drug squad between 1997 and 2002.

The six officers - Staff Sgt. John Schertzer and Constables Maodus, Richard Benoit, Steve Correia, Joseph Miched and Ray Pollard - are charged with a total of 22 criminal charges.

Maodus, who has been suspended with pay since March 2002, was charged Thursday with assault, uttering a death threat and failure to comply with a recognizance.

The drug-squad investigation, led by the RCMP, took 2½ years and cost more than $3 million.

Police ordered to investigate
Court rules service must accept third-party complaint

Says man was 'directly affected' by alleged assault of woman

In a landmark decision, a court has ordered Toronto police to probe an alleged assault by one of its officers on a drunk woman, even though the complaint originated from a witness.

In a 2-1 ruling, Ontario's Divisional Court said police must accept and investigate the complaint made by Toronto researcher Roger Rolfe. The court said he was directly affected when he saw an officer allegedly assault a handcuffed woman, described by Rolfe as "intoxicated" but "passive."

According to Rolfe, the skinny woman in her 50s was "slammed to the ground with considerable force" in front of him and his wife on Jan. 4, 2002. The couple were out shopping when they watched the woman being escorted from a store by police and firefighters.

Rolfe said the woman was bleeding after she was shoved to the pavement. The alleged assault left Rolfe stunned, and he still experiences anxiety and sleep loss because of what he saw, court was told.

Although the woman filed no complaint, Rolfe decided to complain for her. However, police rejected the complaint, arguing he was not "directly affected" by the incident. The Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, the province's main police watchdog, upheld the decision to throw the complaint out.

With the help of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Rolfe took the matter to court, asking for a judicial review of the commission's decision.

In its decision released yesterday, the court agreed with Rolfe, stating "his position goes beyond that of a concerned citizen as part of the general community; his experience was firsthand."

The court rejected the argument that Rolfe was a mere witness and not directly affected by the alleged assault.

"He was disturbed by what he saw and shaken by it even after the event. In other words, he was directly affected by what he witnessed, even though he was not physically struck by the police," said Justice Anne Molloy who wrote the decision on behalf of the majority.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Douglas Cunningham said "an enormous Pandora's box would be opened if we were to extend the meaning of "directly affected" to the extent urged by my colleague (Molloy)."

Still, Alexi Wood, director of public safety projects for the civil liberties association, said the decision was a landmark case that will bolster the argument that the province must return to the days when third-party complaints were accepted and investigated. "This case really shows the insensitivity of the system," said Wood.

Earlier this year, former Superior Court justice Patrick LeSage recommended that as part of an overhaul of the complaints system, the province consider restoring the right of third parties to make complaints about police conduct.

Mayor calls for review of police litigation:
Miller reacts to report that lawsuits against officers have cost city $30M since '98

Mayor David Miller

Mayor David Miller is demanding a review of all litigation against the police force after a report surfaced that lawsuits against the police have cost the city $30-million since 1998.

"We obviously need to take a look at the whole system," the mayor told reporters yesterday. "Are there frivolous lawsuits? Are there underlying policy issues? Are we doing something wrong that's inviting lawsuits? Are we paying the lawyers too much?"

He was responding to a CBC Radio report that the city spent more than $30-million on more than 8,000 lawsuits against the police since 1998. The numbers came after the CBC filed an access-to-information request.

Calling the cost "very high" and a cause for concern, Mr. Miller wrote to Police Services Board chairwoman Pam McConnell and city solicitor Anna Kinastowski yesterday asking for a joint review of litigation costs against the police.

The mayor said he would like to see an annual report on police settlements, so the city could keep an eye on any trends and patterns and try to keep the costs down. And, Mr. Miller said, Vancouver's police force, when its smaller size is taken into account, only pays about a third of what Toronto does settling lawsuits.

Ms. McConnell said she welcomes the review. She said it was clear the process needs more transparency, given that until recently, she and the mayor had no idea how much money was being spent to settle cases.

When someone sues the police, because of a confrontation with an officer or after a police cruiser slams into their car, for instance, the case is actually handled by the city's risk-management department, which decides whether to settle or fight the complaint in court.

City treasurer Joe Pennachetti said in a statement yesterday that the $30-million includes insurance claims, legal defence costs, settlement payments and reserves set aside to cover claims in progress.

Louis Sokolov, a civil litigator who often represents people who sue the police, welcomed the mayor's review, saying he hoped it would allow the force to track officers who repeatedly spark civil lawsuits. "I've had a number of frequent fliers," he said.

For example, Mr. Sokolov said, officers who are successfully sued for negligence -- for arresting the wrong person, in one case he handled -- don't appear to ever face discipline: "There's nothing internally to stop the police from doing it again."

The review might also show areas where police need better training, said Mr. Sokolov, a partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell in Toronto.

For instance, it might shed light on how often the city settles cases against officers accused of trumping up, or contradicting, evidence at a bail hearing to keep a suspect in jail. He said he had recently settled two such "false bail synopsis" cases for a total of $130,000.

Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson said that while he did not disagree with reviewing the litigation process, he said he would like to see city lawyers fight for police officers more often, rather than settle cases before they end up in court.

"The city needs to stand by police officers, because policing in this city is a very tough job," Mr. Wilson said. "For someone to make an allegation against a police officer is very easy."

Lawyer and former police board chairwoman Susan Eng said that it was important to know what the breakdown of cases was within the $30-million. "It's a question of whether we tend to have a lot of kicking down doors -- I am not too fussed about that -- or whether or not we have a lot of wrongful deaths."

Reached in Florida, former police board chairman Norm Gardner said the settlement costs, which amount to about $5-million a year over six years, didn't sound out of line to him, given the number of confrontations police face.

"There's a lot of people who make allegations against the police," Mr. Gardner said. "People think they are going to get paid off."

Police court payouts under scrutiny
Documents show $30M in settlements since 1998

'Number is very high and I'm concerned,' Miller says

The City of Toronto wants a review of why it cost $30 million over six years to settle thousands of civil lawsuits against police officers, says Mayor David Miller.

"The number is very high and I'm concerned," Miller said. "We obviously need to take a look at the whole system. Are there frivolous lawsuits? Are there underlying policy issues? Are we doing something wrong that's inviting lawsuits? Are we paying the lawyers too much? All of those have to be looked at."

Miller called for a review of the settlements against Toronto police yesterday after learning of the legal tab in a CBC report.

According to the CBC, an Access to Information request reveals the city spent $30,633,303.63 settling actions involving police since 1998. The review period takes in more than 8,000 cases, the CBC said.

"Front-line police officers are in a very tough position and they need to know that they're going to be backed up," Miller said yesterday in requesting a joint review with the Toronto Police Services Board legal staff.

Board chair Councillor Pam McConnell acknowledged the tab caught her by surprise.

"I'd like to know what we're spending $5 million a year on, but I don't suspect that there's anything untoward here," McConnell said.

"I think this is a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing," said McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale). "When the head of council and the head of the police services board both aren't aware of the numbers, then it says to me that it's buried in the bureaucracy.

"Where's the public accountability and public transparency around these numbers?" McConnell said.

Miller noted the only comparative figure he had yesterday was with Vancouver, which he said, on a per-capita basis, spends about one-third of what Toronto does.

"There's obviously something that we're not doing quite right. Some of it may be to do with Toronto. It's just when you're bigger, it's a harder place to police. But I think there's enough information here to indicate that we're not doing something right. We need to understand the trends and change them," Miller said.

Jane Doe, a sexual assault victim who fought a 12-year legal battle to get police to acknowledge their wrongdoing in failing to warn her and other women of a serial rapist in her neighbourhood, said she wasn't surprised given her experience.

Doe - who received a $220,000 settlement and an apology following a legal battle that ended in 1998 with a legal tab of $2.5 million - noted wryly: "The irony (is) that I offered to settle for $50,000.

"The strategy is to never give in ... to use time and legal arguments to make the person in my position go away. It's an historic and honoured tradition. We've seen it happen time and again, and apparently it works very well. The police services board engaged in that tactic in my case," Doe said.

Further costs have since been incurred in an audit ordered into how the force conducts sex assault investigations, which has taken more than six years, Doe added.

While Miller said the police services board approves each settlement, McConnell said its role is far more limited.

"The police services board has nothing to do with these numbers. They might get them for information once a year. They get them very globally, they don't approve them, it's not in their budget," McConnell said.

"There doesn't appear to be a political body that approves (these settlements). I think this review will allow us to put the controls in place that need to be put there and the political oversight that needs to happen," she said.

Miller said he understood the money was paid out through the Ontario Municipal Insurance Exchange, a self-insuring body representing various municipalities, but settlements are actually approved through the city's risk management division.

Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson said civil suits against police officers are to be expected.

"In today's environment," he said, "it seems that everyone feels the recourse to take is to lay a complaint or to make an allegation and pursue it civilly."