Charging police officers too
risky for prostitutes
Rights groups says sex extortion by
Participants at the Junger inquiry into the workings of Metro police's internal affairs unit got a poignant glimpse this week into the lives of sex-trade workers whose turf lies a few blocks east of the opulent Elmwood Club, the site of some of the year-old probe's most dramatic moments.
officers not at all uncommon
For a street prostitute on Jarvis, an encounter with a police officer who's gone bad is starker than the the light that streams through the Elmwood Club's pale, neo-expressionist stained-glass windows.
The inquiry heard further testimony Monday and Tuesday (October 28-29) about the case of the pseudonymous Jane Doe, a prostitute whom constable Brian Whitehead extorted sexual favours in 1989. Whitehead was never charged with a criminal offence, and his internal disciplinary tribunal penalty amounted to a demotion
Testimony indicates that Whitehead was off-duty when he demanded that Doe take him to her apartment and comply with his wishes, or face arrest.
By the time Whitehead subsequently phoned Doe to arrange to see her again, however, she and her lawyer had called upon internal affairs to become involved. In what Diane Martin, Doe's lawyer at the inquiry, calls a "first-class investigation," detective sergeants Richard Lundy and Donald Caisse of internal affairs had prepped Doe and prepared to stake out her apartment when Whitehead made his return visit November 22, 1989.
Lundy, who retired in May 1990, testified that after apprehending Whitehead in the course of the stakeout and taking him to a waiting police car, he returned to Doe's apartment to find her curled up in a fetal position in her bedroom. "She was on the floor," Lundy testified, "and she was crying."
After nabbing Whitehead, however, Caisse and Lundy declined to lay criminal charges against him, opting to proceed under the police act instead. They cited him for corruption and deceit, with a view to an eventual internal police disciplinary tribunal.
Lundy says he and his partner made that decision because they were advised by a crown attorney that criminal charges would have little chance of standing up in court. More to the point, he adds, Doe indicated right from the start that she would be unwilling to appear in a public courtroom to testify against Whitehead. "She didn't even want to go into a court building for fear of being recognized."
Lundy says he reasoned that by proceeding under the police act, he could protect Doe's anonymity while achieving her wish of having Whitehead dismissed from the force -- a goal he says he could comfortably support. "In the back of my mind," Lundy testified, "I figured that is what would happen."
Martin, however, says that as early as December 1989 Doe had begun to change her mind about testifying against Whitehead. Four months later, Doe had her lawyer phone internal affairs to say she was willing to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
The reason -- a rumour that a deal had been struck with Whitehead to allow him to remain on the force.
Martin cites a March 1990 letter between a lawyer representing Whitehead and the Metropolitan Toronto Police Association indicating that the police's internal trials preparation office would be satisfied with a penalty consisting of a forfeiture of days off, as long as Whitehead attended an alcohol rehabilitation program.
Lundy testified that Whitehead had already taken rehab in Buffalo, three months before that letter was written. The trials preparation office did recommend that Whitehead be penalized by a forfeiture of days off during his tribunal hearing in May 1990. (The tribunal judge rejected that recommendation, and proceeded to demote Whitehead from sergeant to constable.)
Martin says it appears that there was no intention of letting Doe change her mind and testify against Whitehead after all. She adds that Lundy wasn't apprised of behind-the-scenes deal-making. "He was much less a part of this than other officers."
Martin concludes that for an individual who regularly works the streets, the chances of successfully pressing a sexual assault charge against a police officer are slight.
"The risks to a prostitute," Martin says, "are enormous."
Prostitutes rep Valerie Scott says victims won't sign affidavits.
Valerie Scott, a spokesperson for the prostitutes' right group CORP, agrees. She says Doe has shown "remarkable" courage in coming forward with a complaint in the first place.
"Everybody and their grandmother can be saying that they'll help you through this, but when you're out there at three in the morning, and it's just you and the officer, who's going to help you then?" Scott asks. "You'll constantly be arrested. They'll find out if you have a boyfriend, and arrest him, too."
Scott won't estimate how many of Toronto's close to 300 street workers have had problems with the police, but she says that incidents involving sexual assault and extortion are not rare. She adds that in all her years of observing the trade, she knows of only four women who signed affidavits against officers.
"I hate to use the phrase, but you're talking about really opressed people," Scott says. "We have stories upon stories of sexual abuse, where policemen have forced girls to go down on them and fuck them."
Martin wonders why internal affairs isn't using sex trade workers as informants against officers who extort sex. She says in other criminal areas, police have little difficulty protecting the confidentiality and safety of informants.
"Those protections could be provided to prostitutes, too. It disturbs me that they're not already being used."