News / Winnipeg

Manitoba police chief pleads not guilty to perjury

Testimony began Monday in the trial of a former Manitoba police chief accused of obstruction of justice.

Harry Bakema is also accused of perjury and breach of trust in a botched police investigation into a deadly car crash in his East St. Paul jurisdiction seven years ago.

Bakema is accused of deliberately torpedoing the investigation into the death of Crystal Taman, whose car was hit from behind by Derek Zenk, an off-duty Winnipeg police officer who had previously worked with Bakema.

A public inquiry was told Bakema did not give Zenk a sobriety test or question him at the scene, and told a fellow officer to change his notes about the crash.

Bakema denies those accusations and has pleaded not guilty.

The first witness was an RCMP collision expert, who told court he took one look at Taman's crushed vehicle and knew that whoever had been in that car would not have survived.

Cpl. Chris Blandford testified that when he was investigating the crash scene a few hours after the accident, Bakema told him Zenk was drunk.

“He told me (Zenk) was impaired at the time” Blandford told court.

“He was very disappointed ... that a member of the Winnipeg Police Service was an offender.”

Zenk was charged with numerous offences, including impaired driving causing death. But that charge and several others were dropped due to a lack of evidence about how much Zenk had consumed.

There were no police notes about his impairment, despite the fact that Zenk had been up all night partying with fellow officers.

He eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was given a conditional sentence of two years of house arrest, which outraged Taman's family.

Zenk's fellow officers told investigators, as well as the public inquiry, that they could not remember how much alcohol he had consumed.

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