York police association axes legal funding for officer in racially charged discipline hearing
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The York Regional Police officer at the centre of a racially charged disciplinary hearing says his police association is abandoning him by refusing to continue paying his legal fees.
“How am I going to pay for my defence?” Const. Dameian Muirhead said Wednesday, shortly after he got the news that his police association is no longer funding his hearing.
Muirhead, who is black, is facing discipline over his handling of a drunken bush party where he was hit with repeated racial slurs, including what he considered a threatening comment about lynching.
John Miskiw, president of the York Regional Police Association, refused to comment on the case except to say: “I am sorry, but you will have to ask Dameian for the reasoning behind the decision.”
Muirhead said he was told by Miskiw the association would not longer pay his bills because the case was considered “systemic.”
Muirhead said it’s troubling that the association can find funds for beach volleyball facilities, baseball diamonds and resort properties, but it can’t fund his legal defence.
Selwyn A. Pieters, one of Muirhead’s lawyers, slammed the association’s decision.
“The association pulling Dameain’s funding and abandoning is typical of unions hostile to the equality rights of black employees that seek to assert those rights,” Pieters said. “That Dameian seeks to interrogate his persecutors has ruffled the association’s feathers. However, his vigorous defence on the police act charges will proceed unabated while we also seek remedies against the arbitrary action of the association.”
There is no end in sight for the hearing. Muirhead’s legal team is trying to compel Chief Eric Jolliffe to testify on why charges were laid.
On Wednesday, Supt. Robertson Rouse said he may have to step away from his role as adjudicator in the case after Muirhead’s lead lawyer, Courtney Betty, questioned his impartiality in the case.
Meanwhile a fraternal organization for police officers and correctional workers has filed a formal complaint against Rouse and another senior York officer for their handling of the case.
The complaint was filed this week with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) by The Toronto Guardians after members sat in on Muirhead’s ongoing disciplinary hearings.
The complaint by The Guardians accuses Det. James McRobbie of improperly interfering with the court case of Rheal Duguay, an Aurora businessman who complained about Muirhead arresting him.
Muirhead charged Duguay with threatening him, and those charges were later withdrawn after Duguay agreed to take an anger management course.
“Detective McRobbie interfered with the course of justice by suggesting to the Crown that the charges (against Duguay) be withdrawn without any lawful authority,” the complaint reads.
The Guardians laid a second complaint against Rouse for not investigating the possibility that McRobbie interfered in the case.
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