‘Ottawa’ Officer Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Traffic Tickets in ‘Ghost Warning’ Probe
The only Ottawa officer as-yet charged in a widespread internal investigation into fake traffic warnings has pleaded guilty to issuing warnings without any evidence of traffic infractions.
Const. Bernard Covic, an officer since 2007, was served with an offence notice on May 30 and then just days later, on June 2, pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct and insubordination for falsifying traffic warnings.
According to an agreed statement of facts, Covic was identified after internal affairs began auditing all provincial offence notice warnings issued by Ottawa cops after police discovered what appeared to be a systemic effort to bolster stats by issuing fake warnings to motorists. The audit was prompted after a stack of undelivered warnings, issued by an officer who has since been suspended, was found.
Covic conducted two traffic stops — one on Jan. 18, 2015 and another on June 6, 2015 — and issued five warnings, but only one of which was based on evidence. At the first stop, Covic issued a legitimate warning to a driver who had an expired plate sticker. But Covic also issued warnings for failing to surrender a permit and failing to surrender insurance, despite the fact that the driver did indeed give the officer the documents, which Covic handed back to him. At the second stop, conducted because Covic saw a man spinning his tires, Covic once again asked for the driver’s licence and insurance, returned them and told the driver to “Have a good night.” Covic then proceeded to enter two warnings for failing to surrender the same items he had just examined.
Internal investigators found that between January and October of 2015, Covic issued 26 motor-vehicle related charges and four warnings and that the officer made no notes for any of those charges or warnings.
Covic is the only officer who has been charged in the ongoing traffic probe of what officers have called “phantom tickets” or “ghost warnings.”
The investigation, first reported by Postmedia in November 2015, has resulted in two officer suspensions and nine officers being reassigned to desk duty, of which Covic was one. The probe is ongoing. Investigators believe that officers were issuing both unsubstantiated and substantiated warnings that might have otherwise been delivered verbally to boost their internal statistics. The police union, however, contends some of those warnings may have been inadvertently issued by a troubled e-ticketing system.
The four fake warnings issued by Covic, though not high in number, are thought to be part of what was a systemic practice among some officers.
Covic is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17.