The Neptune Four – waiting, waiting, waiting

Confidence and trust….still an illusion.

We introduced a story on March 13 of last year, a story which began in November of 2011 when four teenage boys were stopped by police in the common area of their Neptune Drive housing complex. “Confidence and trust” positioned Toronto police chief Mark Saunders’ call for building and restoring public faith in our police service against one particular police-negative incident. We included our March 10 letter to Chief Saunders which criticized the delay in resolving the questions around the behaviour of his officers on that day in 2011, and the failure to reach an accommodation for punitive damages with these four black teenagers.

The teens, now known as ‘The Neptune Four’, filed a suit against the police. Two of the five officers named in the suit also face a total of four misconduct charges under the Police Act, the two who had originally stopped the young men. The Ontario Human Rights Commission applied to participate in the police tribunal disciplinary hearing to ensure racial profiling was considered as playing a role in that interaction with police on November 21 in 2011.

That hearing was not scheduled to begin until October of last year, five years after the incident!

We ran “The Neptune Four – an update” on October 9. By that time, the tribunal had considered the OHRC intervenor status application. That was denied on Monday, July 11 last year because a hearing officer ruled that the tribunal didn’t have the ability to grant the commission’s involvement. The Toronto Star’s Jim Rankin was as frustrated by that decision as we were, and the paper published a July 15 editorial, calling for changes to the rules, citing there was time to do just that before the hearing was to begin in October.

Nothing happened.

Since then, and shortly before the tribunal was to start, one of the two subject officers submitted a motion to have a police inspector acting as the hearing officer – the tribunal judge – removed, claiming possible bias. The motion alleged that this adjudicator had recently committed a misconduct himself and was “let off the hook” by Toronto police.

The motion said there was a reasonable perception an impartial decision could not be reached, because the lawyer representing this subject officer had previously spoken for another officer against that inspector in his own tribunal hearing, referring to an order he had issued as “unlawful, outrageous, and criminal.”

The motion to have the hearing officer removed was argued at a Toronto police tribunal in December, and with that same particular police inspector adjudicating. And, that inspector’s 78 page decision came down on Friday, March 3 of this year, clearing himself of bias. The report concluded the motion failed to show enough grounds to justify his removal from the case, and that the claims in it were assumptions only.

So now, when will all this move forward? Our only suggestion is to stay tuned.

To quote from the October 9 posting, “We shouldn’t be surprised if this hearing drags on for months, with postponements, delays, and legal challenges. One thing we can conclude with certainty. In the end, the City of Toronto and its taxpayers will be turning over a handsome albeit undisclosed and confidential settlement to the complainants.”

Confidence and trust? There are many Neptune-Four-type cases in a city the size of Toronto, each with its own champions. Some wait too many years for resolution, some never get to that point, some do. No matter. The police are first and foremost at our service, but for as long as there remains no completely impartial and at-arms-length process to referee conflicts we have with our officers, and bring these to a timely and speedy conclusion, trust remains an elusive end.

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