Below is a bit of an editorial and a couple related posts shared by our bud Accountability about someone in Toronto who’s experienced harassment from some folks who wear Toronto police badges. The thing that made this situation a bit different than most was that the individual targeted was one of their colleagues.
We call it the Blue Wall. A conspiracy of silence that police officers strictly maintain and impose on fellow officers about misconduct within their own ranks.
Toronto Police Constable Andrew Vanderburgh was harassed and berated by fellow officers because he arrested and charged a off duty officer back in 2009 with impaired driving and having a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams
Amazingly, Vanderburgh’s own partner refused to help him arrest the off-duty officer. Some officers called Vanderburgh a rat.
The honest officer said in court that he does not regret charging a fellow officer, but the fallout has been difficult.
The Police union president Mike McCormack was surprised that the officer faced retaliation and says there is no such thing as blue wall.
Rookie cop takes heat for arresting off-duty officer
By Betsy Powell – The Toronto Star
It’s an impaired driving case like thousands of others except it involves a rookie Toronto police officer who crossed the thin blue line and paid the price.
Const. Andrew Vanderburgh was “harassed and berated” by fellow officers because on Nov. 28, 2009, he arrested and charged an off-duty police constable with impaired driving and having a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams, according to an internal police disciplinary ruling.
Some officers also allegedly called Vanderburgh a “rat,” Justice Paul Reinhardt wrote in a pre-trial ruling.
On Tuesday, Vanderburgh was in Old City Hall court to testify at Breton Berthiaume’s long-delayed impaired driving trial. He declined to comment except to say that while he does not regret charging a fellow officer, the fallout has been difficult.
Berthiaume, a Halton Region officer, has pleaded not guilty.
Also in court was Const. Suhail Khawaja, who accompanied Vanderburgh in his squad car the evening of the arrest.
That night, Vanderburgh and Khawaja went to Berthiaume’s home in High Park after a 911 caller reported seeing someone driving erratically on the Don Valley Parkway, and had recorded the licence plate number.
The officers took Berthiaume to neighbouring 22 Division, the closest station where a breath technician was present, and required him to give breath samples.
Some officers there “took exception to a police officer being charged or investigated,” Crown Attorney Mary-Anne Mackett told court Tuesday, providing an overview of the convoluted 2½-year-old case.
Reinhardt, who is no longer the judge in the Berthiaume case, said in his pre-trial ruling that disclosure he reviewed alleged Khawaja “refused to assist Constable Vanderburgh in the arrest and preparation of paperwork at 22 Division.”
“Constable Khawaja is purported to have stated on more than one occasion that evening to different informants that he wanted nothing to do with the arrest of a fellow police officer,” Reinhardt wrote.
Vanderburgh, meanwhile, continued to pay a price.
After Berthiaume was released, Vanderburgh drove a marked police vehicle back to his division and was followed by a 22 Division cruiser driven by Const. James Little.
Little pulled him over and gave him a ticket for allegedly disobeying a red light, which was later dismissed. Last year, Little pleaded guilty to one count of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act.
Little chose “to disregard his professional obligations and embark on a course of retaliatory action against a colleague performing his sworn, lawful duty,” Supt. Robin Breen wrote in his ruling.
“He abused his position to express his personal displeasure about his colleague’s arrest of an off-duty police officer.” Little was docked 20 days’ pay.
Two other officers, including a staff sergeant who failed to intervene, were disciplined in the incident. One was also docked 20 days’ pay, the other 15.
“Those penalties are at the upper end and reflect seriousness of what happened and demonstrate the determination of the service to hold people accountable in a meaningful way,” Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said Tuesday.
Pugash said the names of the two other officers cannot be disclosed because they were dealt with at the divisional level. However, Reinhardt’s pre-trial ruling referred to incomplete police disclosure records of Khawaja’s “misconduct” on Nov. 28, 2009.
Berthiaume’s impaired driving trial, meanwhile, has been put over until Feb. 18 when he plans to represent himself after firing his lawyer. He remains on active duty with the Halton force.
Toronto police union decries officers protecting their own
By Curtis Rush – The Toronto Star
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack says he finds it “troubling” that a rookie Toronto officer faced internal retaliation for charging a Halton police officer with impaired driving.
McCormack said the “optics” of a perceived thin blue line are bad but it’s not a systemic issue and, while the police culture of protecting their own may have once existed in Toronto, it doesn’t any longer.
As the Star’s Betsy Powell reported, Const. Andrew Vanderburgh was harassed and berated by fellow officers after he arrested and charged Const. Breton Berthiaume, an off-duty police constable, with impaired driving and having a blood-alcohol level over 80 milligrams on Nov. 28, 2009.
Vanderburgh’s father, Norman, 64, a retired Toronto police officer, told the Star his son was put in a tough position “but he did what he had to do.”
His son has always been a leader, he added. “It’s what you call integrity, choices and values. You’ve got to look at yourself in the mirror.”
He recalls having father-son chats about values. “You are sworn to uphold the law.”
Vanderburgh’s father never had to charge an officer himself, but he knew those who were ridiculed for charging another officer and they put up with it.
He added that most officers would do the right thing in this situation, but there are others who “tarnish us all.”
“Maybe there are people who are wearing the uniform that shouldn’t. They are bully cops.”
The senior Vanderburgh said his son is not discouraged enough to leave the police service.
McCormack admitted that not all his members do the right thing. “It’s not a perfect world, and that’s why we have a discipline process.
“Our members are professional for the most part. They have taken an oath and take it seriously. It’s unfortunate in a circumstance like this where it gets out of control.”
Const. James Little, who followed Vanderburgh and gave him a ticket — later dismissed — for allegedly disobeying a red light had been docked 20 days’ pay.
Two other officers, including a staff sergeant, were disciplined in the incident. One was also docked 20 days’ pay, the other 15.
Meanwhile, Berthiaume’s impaired driving trial has been put over until Feb. 18. He remains on active duty with Halton police.
Using social media, the Toronto Police Service has also condemned the practice of protecting other officers when charges should be laid and are not.
Police tweeted: “#TPS fully supports PC Andrew Vanderburgh for upholding his sworn duty. We condemn the actions of anyone who challenged him.”
Former mayor John Sewell, who is now coordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, said he wasn’t surprised to read about police protecting their own.
“This is just an example of the police culture at work,” he said.
Sewell’s answer is to appoint police supervisors from outside the organization so police aren’t disciplined by officers who once walked the beat.
“Other organizations bring in managers from elsewhere,” Sewell said. “They know how to manage people. And that would break down this police culture.”
Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee rejected that argument.
“They would still have to meet Police Act requirements, they would still have to qualify as police officers, they would still have to know policing,” Mukherjee said.