Rookie cop 'harassed and berated' after arresting off-duty officer
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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.