Sunday, October 10, 1993

Bob Brent

p. A18.

Woman's plea for police help put her on trial

Confined to anonymity in the sterile domain of legal documents and police reports, she is referred to simply as Mrs. F.

Her name is Myriam. She is a divorced mother of two young daughters, she chain smokes, has a fondness for flashy gold jewelry and celebrated her 35th birthday last Monday.

She grew up in a largely Jewish, largely middle-class Montreal neighborhood, studied literature and computer science in college, and moved to Toronto in search of work after marrying at the age of 21.

When her marriage shattered in 1988, and gave way to violence, she turned to Metro police for help.

Five years later, she is living with the repercussions.

Two years ago, the Metro Police Services Board learned that the force had turned its investigative powers against Mrs. F in an effort to "destroy" her credibility.

Internal affairs officers -- the same secretive detectives trained to ferret out bad cops -- travelled as far as Montreal in 1991 to interview Mrs. F's family, her ex-boyfriend and former employers.

Officers planted themselves outside her home, recording the licence plate numbers from the cars of visitors.

Her crime?

She had accused a constable from North York's 33 Division -- similarly identified as Constable M -- of offering to protect her from her husband in exchange for sex.

A board of inquiry into her allegations was stayed in 1992 after police lawyer Harry Black argued there has been an undue delay of nine months between the time Mrs. F learned of the impending inquiry and when police were notified.

As a result, her accusations were never proved or disproved.

Myriam has filed a $600,000 lawsuit against police complaints commissioner Clare Lewis, accusing him of "gross negligence" and deliberately breaching a section of the Police Services Act that required him to notify police promptly after a board of inquiry had been called in the matter.

Those allegations are before the courts.

But two weeks ago, the police services board ordered Chief William McCormack to investigate the matter and to prepare a report "that establishes the clear principle that the force will not engage in any activity which discourages public complaints."

...It is clear that the brief prepared by Internal Affairs was handed over to the private council for the officers." - Ian D. Scott, Crown Attorney

All along she had suspected that Metro police had investigated her, not her complaint. but the board of inquiry was stayed before her lawyer, Ray Kuszelewski, could introduce evidence to confirm those suspicions.

Kuszelewski wrote in frustration to the provincial attorney-general. He never heard back.

Then , 15 days ago -- while visiting her parents in Montreal on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement -- Myriam received a long-distance phone call that she says literally dropped her to her knees.

A friend brought word of the police board's revelation and, with it, vindication for Myriam.

"We suspected this was going on, and as often as we flagged it, it was as if everyone had blinkers on," she said last week in an interview at her North York home. "It was like screaming in a vacuum. I felt like I was on trial the whole time."

She credits Black for that feeling. During the 1991 hearing, he repeatedly described Myriam's credibility as "perhaps the single most important issue in this case."

"Sex, drugs and rock and roll, that's what he was after," Kuszelewski says. "It was just a character assassination on his part."

Myriam never denied that she had sex with Constable M. "Nobody else was willing to protect me," she says. "What choice did I have."

"What I saw from the very beginning was a very vulnerable individual who was under tremendous stress," Kuszelewski says.

Myriam says Constable M played on that vulnerability when he arrived at her work place in September, 1988, after her husband complained that she had threatened him.

The couple were well known to 33 Division officers who had responded at least 10 times in the summer of 1988 to quell fights between Mrs. F and her husband.

Asking her to join him in his cruiser, so he could have a cigarette, Constable M made small talk and showed an interest in her work. "He was actually giving me the time of day," she says. "He was not talking down to me like the other police officers had."

The two agreed to meet after work because Constable M needed accounting advise for a bricklaying business.

Myriam recalls: "He said, There's talk around the shop. If you call for help, they're not to respond to you. Why should I not believe him? He's a police officer."

She says he promised to protect her in exchange for sex, saying, "You know what they say: If you want to feel safe, sleep with a cop."

She told the inquiry that Constable M later refused to return her calls.

In response to her complaint, Myriam received a letter in September, 1989, from Acting Deputy Chief Grant Waddell, which offers Constable M's version of events.

He maintained that the two agreed to meet in Sunnybrook Park, "consumed beer... and discussed bookkeeping problems relative to a company he owns."

Constable M was reprimanded and docked 16 hours' pay, essentially for mixing police business "with his personal life, which had the potential of bringing discredit to the reputation of the force, due mainly to the ongoing dispute between you and your husband," Waddell wrote.

End of story as far as the force was concerned.

Myriam wasn't willing to let the matter rest. Immediately requesting a review of Waddell's decision by complaints commissioner Lewis.

More than two years later, the board of inquiry finally began its short-lived proceedings.

While Kuszelewski entered the hearing with a file under his arm, he recalls Black arriving with boxes full of material. "We knew somebody had been doing a lot of digging," Kuszelewski says dryly.

Black says he takes his role as that of a defence lawyer and was under no obligation to disclose his evidence to either Kuszelewski or commission lawyer Bill Manuel.

Black contends that police only got involved because "there was no proper investigation whatsoever" by the complaints commission.

"There was never anything secret about this," he said in an interview. "There was nothing improper at all."

At the hearing, Black suggested to Mrs. F that she was infatuated with Constable M, telling friends he was tall and handsome.

A friend testified that the family's house was usually in a state "of all hell breaking loose."

"There was never anything secret about this. There was nothing improper at all." - Harry Black, Police lawyer

Without any evidence, Kuszelewski says he had to sit idly by, waiting for his chance to call witnesses and verify that police had indeed investigated Myriam's past.

She never had any doubts as to what was happening after receiving a phone call from her father, who was in tears. "He said some police officer from Metro police called asking some questions about you and your brother."

According to Kuszelewski, the officers assigned to the investigation included Staff Inspector Roy Pilkington, who was one of two investigating officers in the so-called Junger/Whitehead affair, which prompted a two-year provincial inquiry into the workings of Metro's internal affairs unit.

Gordon Junger, 31, a nine year police veteran signed a deal with police that purported to drop criminal charges and destroy physical evidence in return for his resignation after he was accused of running an escort service in 1989.

The police practice of investigating complainants like Mrs. F was not addressed at the Junger inquiry.

But such investigations appear to be "not uncommon," according to a letter written by Crown Attorney Ian D. Scott that has been obtained by The Star.

Scott was asked by the Ontario Provincial Police to determine whether there were grounds for laying charges against the police after they completed an investigation of the matter. Scott concluded there wasn't but said the police practice of investigating complainants raised concerns.

Scott send a copy of the letter to police services board chairperson Susan Eng, suggesting that "your board may want to review its policy in this area."

To quote from Scott's letter: "In my view, it is a reasonable inference to draw from a review of these materials that they were gathered for the purpose of undermining Mrs. F's credibility before the tribunal. Further... it is clear that the brief prepared by Internal Affairs was handed over to the private counsel for the officers."

"... one of the internal memos to Deputy Chief (Peter) Scott states that the collected materials will be useful in 'destroying' Mrs. F's credibility."

"Indeed, it appears that this practice was not uncommon (on the Metro force) and has never been prohibited by the chief or the police services board."

Told of Scott's comments, McCormack did not deny that the investigation of complainants has been a common practice on the force.

"Whenever a complainant comes forward, do you accept all of (the allegations), part of it or none of it?" he asked. "That's the position that the investigator happens to be in. Independent of this case... how do you then test the veracity of a complainant?

"The only way you can do that as an investigator, I can assure you, is to look at the source and weigh that by the source," he added.

About "Mrs. F"... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: August 17, 1999
Last modified: August 17, 1999

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