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Hamilton officer found guilty after journalist arrests resigns, avoiding penalty

Hamilton

Const. Jeff Todoruk arrested two video journalists at the scene of a 2017 crash.

This screen cap from a video at the scene shows Jeff Todoruck arresting journalist Jeremy Cohn.(Andrew Collins/CBC)

Hamilton police Const. Jeff Todoruk — who was found guilty of several charges after arresting two photojournalists in Waterdown in May 2017 — has resigned from the force before he could be penalized.

In a hearing conducted by phone on Friday, prosecutor Brian Duxbury revealed that Todoruk had resigned effective Feb. 19. Todoruk was not present on the call Friday and had missed multiple hearings before his resignation, delaying the decision on a penalty.

In accordance with the Police Services Act, Todoruk's resignation resulted in the matter being stayed. If he gains employment with any police service in Ontario within five years of his resignation, it will be reopened again, explained hearing officer Peter Lennox.

"If he does find himself reemployed elsewhere, this matter recommences," said Lennox, a retired Toronto police superintendent.

Todoruk was found guilty of two counts of neglect of duty, one count of discreditable conduct and one count of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority under the Police Services Act in a decision made by Lennox on May 31. He was found not guilty of one count of discreditable conduct.

The charges stemmed from the scene of a car crash in Waterdown where a young girl had been killed. Todoruck arrested then-Global News camera operator Jeremy Cohn and independent videographer David Ritchie, who were working at the time.

Handcuffed and put into a cruiser

A video shows Todoruck pinning Cohn to the ground with his knee, cuffing him with zip ties, and pulling him to a police cruiser. Cohn was released without charge.

Todoruck took Ritchie's camera before handcuffing him and putting him in the cruiser. Ritchie was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer, but those charges were later dropped.

Ritchie, who describes what happened that day as an "ego trip," says he's disappointed by how much time and resources went into a process that ended with Todoruk getting "an escape route… Who knows what's on his file, because he walked away and didn't get disciplined."

He believes Todoruk's behaviour undermines public trust, and says police chiefs should be advocating for more powers to fire an officer who commits discreditable conduct. "If other people in high-profile careers can lose their job for misconduct, why shouldn't the police be the same?"

'Police are untouchable'

In the four years since the incident, Ritchie says Hamilton police have never reached out or apologized. "They should review this entire incident, and how they could succeed to make sure officers are properly media trained."

Mackay Taggart, Ontario regional director of news at Global News, was the complainant in the case. He says the outcome gives the impression that "police are untouchable … This person can simply resign from his job. I'm sure he still gets his pension."

Taggart says while there is often tension between journalists and police working at crime scenes, both parties play an important role in society and should treat each other as such. He wants to have a conversation with the Hamilton Police Service about the issue, but was told the matter couldn't be discussed while it was before the adjudicator.

"It felt a bit like a way to avoid an important discussion," he said. "I remain optimistic the chief would sit down with myself and some of my colleagues and have a … discussion about respecting the roles we both play."

He said that if the service had spoken to him sooner, it could have avoided the lengthy Office of the Independent Police Review Director complaints process Taggart initiated.

Wanted to sit down and talk

"Had the chief or a high-ranking officer said, 'Let's have a conversation and see what we can do better in the future,' I think we would have thought differently about pursuing the OIPRD complaint."

CBC News asked the Hamilton Police for comment on Friday's developments, whether it conducted an internal review of the May 2017 incident and if it will meet with Global News.

"Media play a vital role in our society and we value our relationship with media," said spokesperson Jackie Penman. "Hamilton Police Service will continue to work collaboratively with our media partners in order to deliver public safety in our community."

Taggart also described challenges with the OIPRD process, saying that if it was complicated for an organization with the resources to see it through, it could be insurmountable for a regular citizen.

"The frustrations we've experienced … in this complaint process have been so immense. It exposed to me that we do need to address how civilians can access accountability.

"It's easy for police departments to hide behind the bureaucracy in the complaints process."

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca



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