Third party investigator examining harassment allegations within Sarnia Police Service

Sarnia Police cruiser outside police headquarters on Christina Street. May 23, 2019. (Photo by Colin Gowdy, BlackburnNews)

The Sarnia Police Services Board says an experienced third-party investigator is thoroughly examining allegations of harassment within the city police service that have been the subject of comment on social media.

Sgt. McCabe (middle) of the Sarnia Police Service with S/Sgt. Thompson and Sgt. Adams of the Peel Regional Police at the annual Ontario Women in Law Enforcement banquet. May 7, 2018. (Photo by the Sarnia Police Service)

Sgt. McCabe (middle) of the Sarnia Police Service at the annual Ontario Women in Law Enforcement banquet. May 7, 2018. (Photo by Sarnia Police Service)

The board issued a statement Wednesday in response to social media reports indicating a demonstration is planned for Saturday afternoon at police headquarters on Christina Street in support of 22-year veteran officer Jaime McCabe-Wyville.

Early this year she reportedly made allegations of assault and harassment by a fellow police officer.

Police board chair and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said an independent investigation of the criminal allegation was conducted.

“The police chief who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the service contacted an outside police force to investigate in Windsor,” said Bradley. “And the Windsor and Essex Crown at the end decided there’d be no reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Bradley said a subsequent investigation is underway into the allegations of harassment.

“That was brought forward to the Sarnia Police Services Board which acted immediately to have an experienced independent third party investigator conduct a thorough investigation. That investigation is going on as I speak today and we expect and hope that those recommendations will come back to the police chief and to the board by the end of November.”

Bradley said unfortunately in the social media world, often the first casualty is the truth.

“I would hope that people would not rush to judgement, not believe everything on social media, and wait for the third party investigation to come back to the Sarnia Police Services Board and then it’ll be acted upon. People should wait to see all the facts being investigated and then judgements can be made on how this was handled by the Sarnia Police Service and the Sarnia Police Services Board,” he said.

Lila Palychuk, the co-chair of Women’s March Sarnia-Lambton which is organizing Saturday’s rally, claimed the complaints have not been handled properly by the police service.

“An outside investigation actually found that the threshold for reasonable grounds was met for criminal assault and harassment, but these claims kind of have been just ignored and swept under the rug,” said Palychuk. “We’ve also heard recently from an officer with an ongoing issue involving systemic racism.”

Palychuk said the purpose of the demonstration from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday is to raise awareness.

“Ideally what we would like is for Sarnia Police Service to recognize that they do have a cultural issue and that they need to make a plan to address it,” she said.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the police board said the health and safety of all Sarnia police employees are of paramount importance, and it’s satisfied that “appropriate accommodations have been and continue to be offered for a safe return to active duty for the officer of the Sarnia Police Service while the investigation is being completed.”

-With files from Colin Gowdy