HIS former police colleague had just been involved in a high-speed crash that left an innocent motorist dead.
Nevertheless, East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema seemed to quickly reject suspicion the off-duty officer may have been impaired despite conflicting reports at the scene, a Winnipeg court has heard.
Bakema, 60, is on trial for six criminal charges, including perjury, breach of trust and obstruction of justice, which stem from his role in the investigation of the 2005 death of Crystal Taman. The married mother of three was killed after her convertible was rear-ended by Derek Harvey-Zenk while she waited at a red light near Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway.
Harvey-Zenk was on his way home from a night drinking with fellow officers. He later pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of dangerous driving causing death and was given a conditional sentence.
The failure of East. St. Paul police to properly document indications Harvey- Zenk was impaired is one of the reasons the case crumbled.
Bakema's actions surrounding the investigation are under a legal microscope at his trial. Ken Graham, a former East St. Paul officer, told court Tuesday he smelled a strong aroma of booze inside Harvey-Zenk's empty vehicle following the deadly crash, but Bakema didn't agree.
"He stuck his head in and said he couldn't smell anything," Graham said. Bakema had personal contact with Harvey-Zenk at the scene and told Graham "he could not smell any alcohol on him." Graham never dealt with Harvey-Zenk to make his own observations, court was told.
Rolland Fontaine, a paramedic who responded to the crash, previously testified about a "very noticeable" smell of alcohol on Harvey-Zenk.
Bakema also told Graham he had worked in the same Winnipeg police district as Harvey-Zenk before Bakema moved to East St. Paul.
"He said this is a mess. We have a mother, a wife, who's been killed. He felt bad for the family and bad for the kids. And he said we have a Winnipeg police member who just screwed up his career," Graham said Tuesday. Bakema told Graham he was going to assign another veteran East St. Paul officer to take over the investigation because he didn't want to create any perception of bias based on his personal history with Harvey-Zenk.
Under cross-examination, Graham said Bakema would not have deliberately sabotaged an investigation.
"Harry is not the type of guy to ask someone to change their notes," Graham said. But he described Bakema as having a very poor memory, which seemed to be getting worse around the time of the fatality.
Testimony from other officers involved in the investigation is expected today.