Tuesday, September 8, 1992


The case of Jane Doe


In 1989, a Jane Doe went to Metro Police complaining that a sergeant, Brain Whitehead, had coerced her into sex by threatening her with a prostitution charge.

She had a right to expect police would pursue her allegations of sexual assault and extortion against an officer as vigorously as it would investigate a civilian, and treat her with dignity.

Instead, the force leaned over backward to protect Whitehead and its own image, while publicly humiliating Jane Doe in the process.

But now, a provincial inquiry headed by Frank D'Andrea says the case highlights "serious problems in the treatment of victims" by the Metro Police. Here's why:

  • Why weren't criminal charges laid against Whitehead? D'Andrea reports that "her story checked out in all respects" and there was corroborating evidence.
  • Why was Whitehead handled with kid gloves at a secret discipline hearing that found him guilty of "a totally despicable abuse of police power and authority"? Whitehead was demoted to first-class constable. Why wasn't he fired?
  • Why wasn't Jane Doe notified of the hearing? Incredibly, Chief William MaCormack later blasted her for not attending.
  • Under this cloak of secrecy, the force tampered with a sworn statement by Jane Doe and allowed Whitehead to plead guilty to the altered facts.

But the ultimate indignity to Jane Doe occurred when she had to obtain a court order to stop police from breaking their promise to protect her anonymity.

As D'Andrea points out, the internal affairs unit has defended its actions throughout as "totally proper, totally correct and totally legal."

Meanwhile, the chief denies responsibility and defends what he calls the good-faith actions of the tarnished internal affairs unit.

D'Andrea's report vindicates Jane Doe, where others let her down -- and, in the process, has struck a blow for other victims of police wrongdoing.

But until the force overcomes a disturbing aversion to criticism and is given progressive leadership, prospects for reform must remain bleak.

More about Jane Doe... [Toronto '92] [News by region] [News by topic]

Created: December 4, 1998
Last modified: December 4, 1998

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