Not only are some residents expressing dissatisfaction with the Orangeville Police Service, The Banner has learned questions are being raised within the local force about its operation and management.
“This letter is to advise the Orangeville Police Services Board that I am formally requesting that a Section 25(1) of The Police Services Act review be conducted into the conduct and performance of the Chief of Orangeville Police, Joseph Tomei, and the administration of the municipal police force, Orangeville Police Service,” states a Dec. 1 letter signed by Sgt. Curtis Rutt, which was attached to a 99-page document outlining why he thought the review is warranted.
Direct and to the point, Rutt requests Tomei be immediately suspended from duty, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Reached by email while on vacation this week, Tomei declined to comment directly because of ongoing Police Services Act hearings involving Rutt.
“His recent allegations against me and other officers in the Orangeville Police Service will be reviewed by an outside police agency and I am confident that once the review is completed, his accusations will be found to be without merit and unsubstantiated,” Tomei wrote.
“This community and the Orangeville Police Service have been dealing with some difficult and tragic incidents this year. Our dedicated men and women are focused on their duties and I am proud to work with them.”
According to the distribution list attached to Rutt’s request, the document was submitted to the Orangeville Police Services Board, town council, the Solicitor General of Ontario, the Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), which would undertake such a review if approved.
The OCPC is an independent oversight agency with authority under the Police Services Act to discipline individual officers right up through to the chief and police services board members, as well as call for restructuring and other changes on a force. Investigations can be launched at the request of a municipal council, a police services board, the Independent Police Review Director, the Solicitor General, or by the commission itself.
In asking for the review, Rutt outlines a number of concerns he has with the department’s leadership, cites specific examples of what he believes to be inappropriate behaviour by fellow officers (largely under the direction of superiors), abuses of authority in dealings with the public, inconsistent discipline within the police service, a lack of officer training, outdated policies and procedures, and issues of officer safety.
Proper training, Rutt said, would go a long way in resolving some of the concerns he has raised.
“It is only through proper training, delivered at regular intervals, consisting of provincially approved topics, can the officers of Orangeville Police Service have the confidence to do their jobs properly,” he wrote. “Properly trained police officers avoid the areas that could put them, and the police service, in a position of civil and criminal liability through abusing lawful processes.”
Additionally, the sergeant called for greater oversight of supervisors and disciplinary actions taken when called for, more frequent supervisor meetings, updated policies and procedures (made readily accessible to officers), revised in-service training, and the creation of a Continuous Improvement Team to enhance how police services are delivered to the community.
In must be noted, Rutt did not provide this newspaper with a copy of the Section 25(1) request. However, when contacted, the sergeant was forthcoming about why he asked for a review, noting many of his concerns stem from “the confusing conflict between what is law and what is policy.”
Rutt’s commitment to law enforcement spans more than 20 years, joining the Orangeville Police Service in 2001, following several years with the Waterloo Regional Police. During his time in Waterloo, Rutt received a Chief’s Medallion of Honour and a Medal of Bravery from then-Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson in 2001.
The sergeant is also president of the Orangeville Police Association, but stressed to The Banner the request is filed on his own behalf, not the association.
Rutt is currently on leave from the department. He faces Police Service Act charges for alleged Neglect of Duty for not making an immediate arrest — which he maintains would have been “unlawful” without further investigation of the allegations — following a domestic violence complaint in February of 2009. The accused, Rutt said, was allowed to turn himself in the next morning.
He is also charged with Insubordination. Those matters are ongoing; he has pleaded not guilty.
Tomei noted Rutt was also “put on notice” on Dec. 17 he is facing another code of conduct investigation.
Mayor Rob Adams, a member of the police services board, confirmed receipt of the Section 25(1) request, but couldn’t provide a lot of details.
“At this stage, it’s a confidential matter regarding personnel. The board will be reviewing it, as it would any other request put forward,” he said of Rutt’s document. “While they’ve received the information, they have not had a discussion and come to a conclusion on how to proceed.”
Based on his experience with the board, Adams said those options include deeming the request to be frivolous, appointing an internal investigation, calling in a third party to investigate or referring the matter to the OCPC.
For its part, the commission meets monthly to discuss various requests, including appeals of police disciplinary actions and Section 25(1) reviews, explained Cathy Boxer, OCPC senior assistant.
“Matters that are before the commission, that’s not something I can speak about,” Boxer said, noting she’s prevented by legislation.
“We get a number of requests a year. Not all of them do we invoke our mandate on,” she added.
Requests are met with one of three options, including launching an investigation if the commission determines “this rises to the level of concern that we will invoke our extraordinary powers under Section 25,” declining to investigate or requesting further information before making a decision.
Asked whether a request carries any more weight when made by a member within the police department, Boxer responded, “I’m not prepared to discuss any specific files. Every application is based on its merit.”
The timeline for investigations vary widely, the senior assistant noted, declining to comment on what could be expected in a case like this.
Regardless of how long a review may take, Rutt believes it’s sorely needed, even if it means him crossing the proverbial blue line.
“Any organization, especially those that have been entrusted by the public with specific duties, should welcome a review to enhance that public trust,” Rutt told The Banner. “A comprehensive review, from an outside agency that has the power to effect change, can make a significant difference in salvaging the Orangeville Police Service.”
Allegations contained within the document (none of which have been proven):
- Officers have allegedly been told by a superior whom to arrest, regardless of whether grounds to make an arrest exist.
- Arrests have been made without first conducting “thorough investigations.”
- In one case, an officer was allegedly instructed by a superior to “re-arrest” young offenders after another officer had released them for the same incident.
- A woman was handcuffed to a stair baluster after accidentally calling 911 and refusing to allow police to search her home.
- Two youths were arrested this past summer for a “minor mischief crime” and held in custody “without legal authority” so police could put conditions on their release.
- A vehicle was destroyed after being towed to an impound yard and the owner not informed.
- Intoxicated people are often arrested and left, unmonitored and without the ability to contact family, for eight to 12 hours.
- When responding to a domestic disturbance call, officers feel obligated to make an arrest even in circumstances where “they knew it was wrong” for fear of being chastised by superiors.
- On at least one occasion, police have laid a more serious charge than warranted, allowing the person to be kept in custody when they should have been released.
- There has been no training on common law or “statutory police authorities” with Orangeville Police Service since 2007.
- Poor supervision has led to “unethical behaviours” within the department. Such behaviours may include theft, falsifying reports and consuming alcohol, among other things.
- “Unsupportive, weak” supervision by police chief Joseph Tomei does not offer enough input or guidance.
- Officers suffer from an “omnipresent” low morale, according to a recent survey.
- Signs of poor morale have been ignored, including frequent staff absences, abuse of sick time, decreased quality of work and “increases in unethical behaviour.”
- Officers have a “lack of confidence” in management of the Orangeville Police Service.
- “Oppressive and tyrannical behaviour” toward some officers has been allowed to go “virtually unchecked.”
- Internal discipline of officers is not delivered consistently.