Friday, July 19, 2024

Ottawa Police Service cop demoted for discreditable conduct

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The Police Act charges came after Const. Umer Khan pleaded guilty to criminal charges of driving while drunk and dangerous driving.

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An Ottawa Police Service constable has been demoted for 14 months for discreditable conduct after previously pleading guilty to charges under the Police Act, saying he was under significant stress at the time due to a protracted dispute with his neighbours.

A decision from hearing officer Supt. Chris Rheaume, released on June 3, said Const. Umer Khan would be demoted from first-class constable to second class constable for 14 months for two counts of discreditable conduct. The Police Act charges came after Khan pleaded guilty to criminal charges of driving while drunk and dangerous driving.

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The decision said Khan was off-duty on June 23, 2018, when he attended the Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau with a friend and consumed “a considerable amount of alcohol” before driving back to Ontario.

Around 2 a.m., Sûreté du Québec police clocked Khan’s vehicle at 123 km/h in a 70 km/h zone and attempted to pull it over. Khan, though, “slowed before rapidly accelerating” towards the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge leading into Ottawa, according to an agreed statement of facts.

Police followed Khan as he was “dodging through traffic” on King Edward Avenue, at one point driving 100 km/h in a 40 km/h zone through vehicle and pedestrian traffic, the decision read. Police eventually found Khan in a parking lot, where his passenger appeared to be vomiting, the decision read. There, Quebec police arrested Khan at gunpoint. A breathalyzer revealed his blood-alcohol concentration was twice the legal limit.

During criminal proceedings in 2019, Khan pleaded guilty before Gatineau Justice Alexandra Marcil to dangerous driving and drunk driving charges for which he was fined $1,000 and given one year of probation. He also lost his driver’s license for a year, which ended up lasting sixteen months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rheaume’s decision said.

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READ MORE: “I messed up”: Troubled Ottawa cop fined $1,000 for drunk driving

During an interview for the professional misconduct charges, Khan said he had been under significant stress due to a neighbour dispute that was before civil court.

As previously reported by this newspaper, an eight-year feud between Khan and neighbours Serge and Sylvie Bujold led to 12 bylaw complaints, two police conduct investigations, a peace bond application, a criminal mischief charge and one lawsuit for defamation, harassment and the infliction of mental distress.

A judge ultimately awarded Khan $25,000 in general damages after an eight-day civil trial, with Ontario Superior Court Justice Sally Gomery saying the Bujolds “crossed the line.”

READ MORE: Judge says couple ‘crossed the line’ in epic, eight-year feud with neighbour

Rheaume wrote that Khan, with more than 21 years of experience as a police officer, had worked as a coach officer and had multiple training certifications and should have used better judgment on that night in June 2018.

“The public must be assured that its police officers will always demonstrate professionalism in their actions — whether they are on or off duty,” Rheaume wrote. “Constable Khan has eroded public trust by engaging in this type of behaviour.”

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Rheaume said the severity of Khan’s misconduct was an aggravating factor in deciding an appropriate punishment, but added the constable “expressed sincere remorse and regret for his actions.

“He was ashamed of what he did, and this demonstrates his appreciation and recognition of the seriousness of his misconduct.”

Rheaume said Khan’s “extensive” experience as a police officer suggested he should have known better than to drive dangerously and while drunk, but said ultimately he considered “Khan’s employment history a mitigating factor” for determining the appropriate punishment.

“Every sworn officer must know fully well that they are held to a higher standard, and that they must not drive while under the influence of alcohol and in a dangerous manner,” Rheaume wrote. “The penalty imposed in this matter must impress upon all police officers the message that they cannot drink and drive while under the influence of alcohol, nor in a dangerous manner.”

With files from Postmedia

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