Seven Hamilton police officers who are the focus of an internal investigation into alleged ticket faking have hired a lawyer to help protect them in what has become a long and tense probe.
The officers, who were part of ACTION Team One last year, have faced “incredible stress” throughout the lengthy investigation, said Gary Clewley, whose legal practice focuses largely on defending police.
Eight months ago, another officer found evidence that tickets were being written and logged without the offender being notified. The allegedly falsified ticket books were found in a box destined for the shredder Sept. 30, 2014.
Since then, all seven officers who were on the high-profile unit have been placed on administrative duties while four experienced criminal investigators work full time on the case. The resources and time police have dedicated to the investigation is unusual.
Clewley said he doesn’t want to tell the police service how to do its job, but added: “Whatever they’re doing, we’d like them to conclude as quickly as possible.”
He says the service won’t speak to him about what is happening with the investigation, and the officers still have not been asked to come in for formal interviews.
Hamilton police sources not authorized to speak on the record say witness officers have been interviewed and warrants executed to search the subject officers’ phones. They say many of these interactions have been tense.
The Hamilton Police Association is footing Clewley’s bill to “protect the association,” said president Clint Twolan.
The officers involved say they’ve done nothing wrong and want the results released, he said.
“The worst part of any investigation … is sitting there waiting for the results,” he said. “There are issues hanging over their heads for months and months and months.”
No disciplinary charges have been laid. However, if investigators choose to lay charges, under the Police Services Act, they will need to seek the permission of the Hamilton Police Services Board since the investigation has gone beyond six months.
There is no time limit on laying criminal charges.
Board chair Lloyd Ferguson said he is concerned with how long the investigation has gone on, but doesn’t have the authority to ask questions during the probe.
He’s been told to expect a resolution by June, with a report going to the board regardless of whether or not there are charges, Ferguson said.
Hamilton police spokesperson Catherine Martin said she can’t comment on ongoing internal investigations under the Police Services Act.
“What we can say is that the service takes any allegations of misconduct very seriously,” she said, later adding that internal investigations are thorough and “involve allegations of potential violations of the Police Services Act as well as the Criminal Code.”
Clewley said he’d like to remind the public that the officers are presumed innocent.
“I think everybody is entitled to a fair hearing.”
Source: The Hamilton Spectator