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This article was published 2/2/2016 (1452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A veteran Winnipeg police officer is facing internal sanctions following a lengthy investigation into allegations of fraud within the K9 unit that could leave taxpayers footing a hefty bill.
Moe Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, confirmed Tuesday that the provincial Crown’s office recently concluded no criminal charges would be laid against the officer. However, that doesn’t end the matter.
"The service is proceeding with an investigation for internal discipline," said Sabourin. He noted there is a much different legal standard to be met when comparing the Criminal Code against police regulations.
The officer was a senior member of the specialized K9 unit who allegedly billed close to $100,000 in overtime between 2011 and 2014 for security work at the Richardson International Airport and MTS Centre. This involved a variety of tasks such as searching and clearing bags of the Winnipeg Jets and visiting hockey teams.
However, it came to light in late 2014 that there was a major issue — the security sweeps were being done without a validated bomb-sniffing dog. And sources say the police service was led to believe that all training standards had been met, which allowed the overtime to be approved on that condition.
Although the dog used during the sweeps may have been previously validated, K9 officers are required to renew their dog’s validation on an annual basis to ensure training standards are being met. That was not done in this case.
Another former member of the K9 unit has now sounded the alarm, essentially saying the overtime assignments were stolen from him. He had a properly validated dog and would have been the one getting the work if not for his fellow officer. Sources say he is seeking as much as $100,000 in compensation for lost wages.
"(The officer) pulled rank over him, took over the bomb dog position when the Jets came back. He would be scheduled to work evenings and would flip to days, then take a 15-hour OT call out for the Jets game," a source said Tuesday in explaining how things would work.
Sabourin confirmed Tuesday that issue is still very much alive but said no payments have been made to the officer who was pushed aside.
"There is no entitlement to overtime," said Sabourin, adding a demand for $100,000 would be "completely inappropriate... that may be wishful thinking on the part of the member.
"It’s an unfortunate position to have members pointing fingers at other members."
The issue gets further complicated and potentially costly. Sources say the Winnipeg Airports Authority was upset it paid for contract work with the WPS that it has since learned wasn’t being done with a validated bomb-sniffing dog. A source said Tuesday the WPS has agreed to pay the WAA a sizeable amount — more than $100,000 — in what would essentially amount to a refund. The police service is also including a personal "letter of apology."
"We’ve heard the rumours," Sabourin said Tuesday. But he said the WPS hasn’t confirmed to them such a payment has been made, nor would they be obligated to do so.
The Free Press asked the police public information office for comment on the issue of the internal investigation and alleged payout to the WAA.
"As this is a private personnel matter, the Winnipeg Police Service will not comment," an email response stated late Tuesday.
The WAA also declined to confirm whether it has demanded, or received, any refund from police.
"It’s best that you speak directly with the folks at the Winnipeg Police Service on this matter," said Breanne Talbot, WAA manager of communications and public affairs. She noted the WPS no longer has the airport contract, as it has since been taken over by the RCMP.
The Free Press spoke Tuesday with Coun. Ross Eadie, a member of the police board. He was unaware of any payment being made by the WPS. Coun. Scott Gillingham, chairman of the police board, and Coun. Marty Morantz, the city’s finance chairman, were also investigating the situation based on requests for comment.
"I expect the Police will inform the board of the findings once the investigation has been completed," Gillingham wrote in an email Tuesday.
"The board should be made aware of such a reallocation. I would expect that information to be included in the regular financial reporting the WPS presents to the board."
Department heads, such as those within the WPS, would have the ability of moving money from one internal budget to another in a way that prevents a situation such as this from automatically surfacing — provided they don’t go back to city hall or the police board seeking more funding.
The officer at the centre of the investigation remains on active duty. Sabourin said Tuesday it could be another year before the matter is resolved.
Sources previously told the Free Press the officer, along with a second veteran member of the K9 unit, have also been accused of harassment by several officers who have left the unit. Those claims are part of the ongoing probe.
"In three years, six people resigned from the unit," said a source.
Chief Devon Clunis told the Free Press in December 2014 there was an ongoing internal investigation into "some practices" within the K9 unit.
"When the time is right, if there is more information that needs to go public, then I will certainly make that available," Clunis said at the time. Now more than 14 months later, and with developments clearly afoot, police are still not officially commenting.
— with files from Aldo Santin
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 7:33 PM CST: adds comment from Coun. Gillingham