Suspended with pay: the perks of being above the law

Toronto police officer Constable James Forcillo leaves the court after being let out on bail in Toronto, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Toronto police officer Constable James Forcillo leaves the court after being let out on bail in Toronto, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Toronto police officer Constable James Forcillo leaves the court after being let out on bail in Toronto, August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

It was a hard pill to swallow for citizens of Toronto and surrounding areas in late January after Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo was found not guilty of second degree murder in the 2013 shooting and killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar.

In January 2016, Forcillo was finally found guilty of attempted murder and the verdict has some people shaking their heads.

However, there are others who believe that this verdict is much more complex and calculated than it may seem at first. It is perhaps even a turning point in the way punishment is issued to those disgraced police officers that’ve abused their power and been reprimanded.

Currently, officers who are charged with crimes while on-duty – ranging anywhere from impaired driving to sexual assault to everywhere in between – enjoy extended suspensions from duty while still receiving pay checks, like Forcillo.

This is just another such occurrence where there has been blatant disregard for the use of taxpayer money. Students and tax payers should not feel comfortable. As students, non-students and taxpayers, who would feel comfortable paying for cushy vacations for these convicted criminals while they’re possibly eating spaghetti for the fourth day in a row.

I should point out that this decision is not at the discretion of any chiefs of police.

In fact, they have been actively lobbying to get the outdated rule abolished from the Ontario Police Act, under a section in the document that hasn’t been updated in over 25 years.

Now, thanks to this privilege being exercised by Forcillo, a convicted killer, the Act is finally being taken under serious review. However, dozens of disenfranchised officers have been taking advantage of this ridiculous clause for years now.

In a more comical example, Constable Craig Markham, a Waterloo Regional Police officer, was found guilty of breach of trust in connection with providing confidential information to a believed member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang.

Markham was convicted and then appealed his conviction, at which time he was ordered to take a three-year suspension from the police force – paid, of course.

During this time, Markham collected almost $165,000 in salary since the time of his conviction.

However, this constable got a little ahead of himself when he, in an especially arrogant attempt at gloating, sent a letter to the legal affairs office in Waterloo, stating that he was “very thankful and fortunate” to have received the “nice gift” of paid suspension.

He even went as far as including what he’s been doing with his time and taxpayer money: “I was able to sit home, take courses, travel, and play lots of golf and get paid a first-class pay check, receive full benefits, and a full pension for the past three years.”

This is just one such case and, needless to say, Markham was fired for this ridiculous letter, but what would have happened if Markham had just kept his mouth shut? It’s safe to say that he would have continued to travel, golf and collect pay checks until his “punishment” concluded and he was reinstated.

In a more alarming case, Steven Correia, one of four special task force Toronto Police officers charged in a 2004 trial, was convicted with conspiracy to obstruct justice, attempt to obstruct justice, perjury, theft over $5,000 and extortion.

His punishment? Eight years of suspension with pay, that actually had extended through to be a total of eleven years suspension with pay. That’ll teach him.

In doing research for this article, the data was staggering with cases where officers have been charged with offences, then sent on vacation for inordinate amounts of time as “punishment.”

What’s alarming is these officers don’t even need to be on-duty when the offence occurs. Just this past January, a York Regional officer was pulled over by an OPP officer on Highway 400 for travelling south in the northbound lane, charged with impaired driving and suspended with pay.

The list of examples could go on and on. To put this in perspective, there are, at this very moment, 14 officers suspended with pay in the City of Toronto alone. Last year, there were 12 who were suspended with pay, which cost taxpayers a total of $883,494.

“It’s the law,” and it smells more than just a little fishy.

About Jordan Porter 50 Articles
Jordan Porter is a third year political studies student at Trent, and minoring in philosophy. This is Jordan's third year writing for Arthur, and is now a senior writer while also serving on Arthur's Board of Directors.