‘Ottawa’ Two More Ottawa Police Officers Demoted in Ghost Warning Probe
Two more Ottawa police officers have been demoted in a force-wide probe into fake traffic warnings that’s grown so large that internal affairs officers were so backlogged they were delayed in accepting one officer’s guilty pleas.
Const. Trevor Gunsolus and Const. Sean Ralph were sentenced to four- and nine-month demotions respectively to second-class constable by hearing officer Supt. Chris Perkins of the Halton Regional Police Service in back-to-back Police Services Act hearings Tuesday.
Gunsolus, an officer since 2008, pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct in December for faking two warnings and twice issuing frivolous warnings that were “repetitious” and “overlapping” since they were issued in the same incident for the same set of circumstances.
Ralph, hired as a special constable in 1999 and then as a police officer in 2002, also pleaded guilty in December to two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination for failing to notify a driver of two warnings he entered into the system, faking seven warnings and failing to follow proper note-taking policy for 55 provincial offences he entered into the system.
Perkins found the lack of notes “incredible” considering “the accurate recording of facts is the bread and butter of policing.”
Gunsolus has no history of what an agreed statement of facts in his case called “serious misconduct” on his employment record.
Ralph, however, pleaded guilty to insubordination in January 2015 for accessing the police report of a fellow officer who had been charged with assaulting his common-law spouse. It’s Ralph’s only recorded PSA conviction, but he was also charged with insubordination in 2010 for using the police database to look up persons involved in a property dispute with his in-laws. He had been informally disciplined and forfeited pay before he was charged. An adjudicator subsequently ruled that he couldn’t be disciplined a second time for the same offence.
Both officers were placed on desk duty in March 2016 — Gunsolus was moved from his patrol job and taken off the Emergency Services Unit; Ralph was moved from the traffic escort services unit. At the time, a total of 11 officers had been implicated in the “ghost warning” probe.
Gunsolus’s defence argued that he wanted to resolve the matter sooner but the police force couldn’t process his file that quickly, delaying his guilty plea by nine months.
“Public trust in policing is a fragile concept, never more so than in today’s environment,” Perkins wrote in his disciplinary decision. “The actions of an individual officer can influence many and while public support and trust must continually be earned, it takes very little to erode it. The fact that (these officers) deliberately, and on more than one occasion, misrepresented facts while engaged in the normal course of (their) duties undermines that trust.
“While the motive for the misconduct was never established in the agreed statement of facts, the inference is clear,” Perkins wrote. “That it had to do in some fashion with performance metrics is certain. This then also serves to undermine the performance of (the officers’) peers, who have not engaged in such conduct, and diminishes their efforts to aspire to a certain level of productivity.”
Only one officer charged in the probe — Const. Edward Ellis, whose actions prompted the entire investigation — has admitted to fabricating warnings to boost his internal stats.
The demotions come as the Citizen has learned that motorists affected by falsified driving records have been notified in writing by Supt. Paul Johnston, the officer in charge of prosecuting officer misconduct, on behalf of Chief Charles Bordeleau, that the fake warnings have since been removed from the police database.
All 11 officers implicated in the probe — two of whom were suspended and nine of whom were placed on desk duty — have been charged. Eight have pleaded guilty and have been demoted.