‘Ottawa’ SIU Investigating Senior Ottawa Police Officer for Alleged Sexual Assault
A senior Ottawa police officer is being investigated by the civilian police watchdog for a sexual assault alleged to have happened nearly six years ago, the Citizen has learned.
While the investigation is in its infancy, some rank-and-file officers are already questioning why a senior police official hasn’t faced the same internal sanctions that they believe lower-ranking officers would be subjected to in similar circumstances.
The Special Investigations Unit invoked its mandate in January of this year after it was notified of the allegation. The arms-length civilian agency that investigates any incidents of serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault involving police has designated one subject officer and four witness officers.
Chief Charles Bordeleau would not comment on the investigation, telling the Citizen in a statement he is “prohibited from commenting” on SIU cases.
In explaining the rationale for moving some officers from their substantive positions, Bordeleau did say: “When an officer is investigated by the SIU, it is my job as chief to look at the facts presented to me by the SIU and decide on the appropriate future assignments for those individuals. I can only act on the information and facts that are provided to me.
“These decisions vary from case to case.”
Bordeleau said there are 10 ongoing SIU investigations underway that “date back to 2014” and that “no officers — regardless of rank — have been suspended as part of those investigations.”
In fact, three of those investigations are sexual assault investigations, according to the SIU.
The union representing officers with ranks from constable to staff sergeant says none of its members is an identified subject officer in any of those investigations. The union representing senior officers — inspectors and superintendents — did not reply to the Citizen’s question about how many of its officers are being investigated by the SIU for sexual assault.
It’s not known whether all three SIU sexual assault investigations have identified and designated subject officers, except for the most recently launched probe, which involves a senior officer.
While no officers from the 10 current SIU investigations have been suspended, some have been placed on administrative duties in roles where they won’t interact with the public. Most notably, two officers being investigated by the SIU for their possible roles in the in-custody death of Abdirahman Abdi were both placed on desk duties.
The Citizen has knowledge of at least three officers who were suspended, prior to 2014, pending SIU sexual assault investigations in which they were ultimately cleared.
Eleven officers involved in the force’s own investigation into faked traffic warnings were either suspended or moved to desk duties before ever being charged under the Police Services Act.
Some officers are voicing concerns about what they perceive to be generally inconsistent applications of internal suspensions or reassignments, regardless of rank.
Police union president Matt Skof said his union has limited information about the investigation but that “there have been inquiries from (rank-and-file officers) expressing concerns and requesting rationale for the decisions made.
“It appears to them that a different standard is being applied,” Skof said.
Both the involved subject officer and the president of the senior officers’ union, Supt. Joan McKenna, did not return the Citizen’s requests for comment.
The subject senior officer continues to work and deal with the public while the SIU investigates the sexual assault allegation against him.
The Citizen has no knowledge of the nature of the allegation, but is publishing this story in the public interest. However, due to the lack of available information about the allegation, the Citizen, at this time, has chosen not to name the subject officer.
Bordeleau did not specifically answer questions relating to officer concerns about variations in treatment.
He did say, however, that “there appears to be a pattern where (the Citizen has) published allegations only to have them later proven to be unfounded.”
Bordeleau did not answer followup questions asking whether he believes the sexual assault allegation is unfounded. The force’s public stance is to believe sexual assault victims and the chief has stated that combating violence against women is one of his priorities.
Previously, the Citizen exclusively reported on officer allegations that Bordeleau improperly involved himself in his father-in-law’s traffic ticket and on officer allegations that a senior police officer breached the Police Services Act.
In the first case, the police board was not aware of the allegations until they were reported by the Citizen. The board chair said he didn’t believe any scrutiny was required, then the board, at its first public meeting after the reporting, and citing the reporting as having been a factor, asked for an independent investigation, which cleared Bordeleau of any wrongdoing.
In the second case, Bordeleau refused to subject the officer to an investigation. Then, after the Citizen published the officer allegations, Bordeleau reversed that decision as there was a growing mass of officers who wanted to see a proper investigation. That investigation, conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police, also cleared the involved senior officer of any wrongdoing.