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Durham cop blames ‘political correctness’ in prosecution alleging homophobic comment

Union says it fully supports Sgt. Tom Andrews, who is charged with discreditable conduct.

Durham Regional Police Sgt. Tom Andrews is fighting allegations of discreditable conduct relating to comments deemed homophobic by police brass.

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Durham Regional Police Sgt. Tom Andrews is fighting allegations of discreditable conduct relating to comments deemed homophobic by police brass.

A veteran Durham police officer has come out swinging as he fights charges of discreditable conduct relating to allegations he made homophobic comments during an exchange with potential recruits.

The pursuit of Police Services Act charges against Sgt. Tom Andrews is a waste of resources, the officer’s lawyer, Bernie O’Brien, said as a disciplinary tribunal began on Tuesday morning in Whitby.

“This is a Durham police management issue that’s gone amok,” O’Brien said. “We think this is a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

O’Brien said Tuesday he’ll file an application to have the prosecution of Andrews declared an abuse of process. He’s also seeking removal of the prosecutor assigned to the case.

The allegations against Andrews relate to April of this year when he was acting as staff sergeant in Oshawa. A notice of hearing from the service says Andrews, asked to speak to two recruits, used vulgar and discriminatory language when he warned them about maintaining stellar reputations as officers.

According to the notice, Andrews told the recruits, “You can sleep with a thousand women and you’re a king. But you fellate one man and you are a c---s----- for life.”

The comment, made in front of an officer who’s openly gay, was “unprofessional, inappropriate, and harmful to those who did and would have heard them,” the notice states.

The complaint that led to the charges, however, was not made by the recruits or other officers in the office at the time Andrews made them. A third party filed the complaint after hearing about the exchange, O’Brien confirmed.

Andrews denied the comment was homophobic; he attributed the resulting charges to “political correctness”.

“I used an analogy in a teaching environment,” Andrews said. “Rather than talking and resolving third-party concerns like this, I guess it’s easier to just call the lawyers and get out the taxpayers’ chequebook.”

O’Brien said Tuesday that Andrews has been assigned to administrative duties. He is not authorized to employ use of force tactics and is barred from performing paid duty, restrictions that will cost the veteran officer $40,000 in wages, O’Brien said.

“He was taken out and put in the penalty box,” O’Brien said. “It’s unfair. It’s undignified.”

O’Brien will seek removal of the firm of Ian Johnstone, a longtime prosecutor for Durham police, from the case. He cited an instance in 2012 when Johnstone filed a personal complaint about a remark made by Andrews that led to disciplinary action.

“The justification is the perception of a fair and impartial hearing,” O’Brien said later.

O’Brien will also apply to have the disciplinary action by police brass declared an abuse of process.

Alex Sinclair, acting as prosecutor during Tuesday’s hearing, rejected O’Brien’s assertion that the comments in question were harmless.

“That theme I simply can’t agree with,” Sinclair said. “When you make homophobic comments in the workplace, that’s a serious issue.”

A number of officers attended the tribunal to show support for Andrews. Brad Durst, vice-president of the Durham Regional Police Association, said Andrews has “the full support of the association”.

“I’ve known Tommy for 25 years,” said Durst. “He is truly the hardest-working, most dedicated officer.”

The tribunal has been adjourned to Oct. 31.

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