Adjudicator erred in ordering Cornwall cop’s dismissal, Greenspon argues

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The lawyer for a Cornwall police officer convicted of deceit, neglect of duty and discreditable conduct has argued the hearing officer made eight “fundamental and important” errors in judging the case.

Lawrence Greenspon made his arguments Wednesday (May 12) during an appeal hearing before the three-member Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC).

Greenspon is representing Const. Kevin Wells, who was found guilty in March 2020 after striking a curb in a parking lot with his police cruiser while on-duty with an expired driver’s licence and then taking the cruiser to a mechanic outside the jurisdiction without immediately reporting the damage to his supervisor.

The officer was found guilty on two counts of discreditable conduct, one count of neglect of duty and one count of deceit.

O.P.P. Adjudicator Greg Walton ruled in October 2020 that Wells should resign or be fired by the force – the most severe penalty afforded to a Police Service Act hearing – because Wells’ actions undermined public trust.

Greenspon made his case for an appeal in a submission Wednesday that lasted around an hour-and-a-half.

“We assert that there are eight fundamental and important errors which the hearing officer made in imposing the most severe penalty available, dismissal, in a case where the conduct took place over the course of a single shift and consisted of an incident of property damage to a police cruiser that didn’t result in injuries to anyone, (didn’t) put anyone at risk, or result in the violation or even the infringement of anyone’s rights,” Greenspon said.

Those errors, Greenspon asserted, were characterizing Wells’ conduct as serious misconduct, having a punishment that didn’t follow case law, placing too much emphasis on previous conduct, refusal to consider rehabilitative potential, saying the public interest demanded such a penalty, “dismissal” of Wells’ positive history shared by character witnesses during the hearing, failing to consider specific deterrents because the intention was to terminate and rejecting testimony on how the actions would affect the reputation of the Cornwall Police Service.

CPS lawyer Lynda Bordeleau countered that the hearing officer’s decision was “well reasoned” and considered the underlying theme of officer integrity. There doesn’t need to be an intervention by the commission, she said.

“At the the end of the day, the hearing officer was clear that the service is entitled to expect honesty and integrity from its members, not just high statistics and availability to work numerous overtime shifts,” Bordeleau said.

The OCPC will review the material. No date has been set for the release of the decision.