Four Toronto Police officers have been charged with obstruction of justice and perjury after allegedly planting heroin in a man’s car following a traffic stop in 2014.
Chief Mark Saunders told the media during a press conference the accused were arrested Thursday morning.
“The officers have been charged with a total of 17 offences, nine of them are obstruct justice and eight are for perjury,” said Saunders. “These charges arise from the arrest of Nguyen Son Tran on January 15, 2014.”
The accusations are linked to a court case in which charges against an alleged drug dealer were stayed after inconsistencies were discovered in the officer’s story.
It is alleged two officers involved made up a false account of what happened when they pulled Mr. Tran over last January during a traffic stop.
“They later found heroin in that vehicle. They opened the package. They sprinkled heroin on the inside of his car. They called for forensic identification services.
They then photographed the scene of planted, concocted evidence,” Tran’s lawyer Kim Schofield told Global News.
“It occurs far too often. I think the police officers feel they can lie with immunity and maybe this case shows them they can’t.”
The officers have been identified as 41-year-old Const. Jeffery Tout, 32-year-0ld Det. Const. Benjamin Elliot, 34-year-old Const. Michael Taylor and 37-year-old Det. Const. Fraser Douglas.
It is alleged all four of the accused provided false court testimony.
“The officers were accused of fabricating the reason for stopping Mr. Tran, stopping him, searching him unlawfully, locating heroin,” said Schofield.
“It’s discouraging that it happened in the first place but it’s encouraging that they are facing scrutiny of an investigation and the fact they are going to face charges.”
Saunders said the arrests follow an investigation conducted by the police professional standards unit working with the crown attorney’s office.
“I cannot discuss the case of these four officers right now but what I can say is that we will leave no stones unturned when we discover or when we’re informed of any information that raises the possibility that any of our members have not lived up to the high standards and expectations,” said Saunders.
Saunders said the officers have been suspended with pay under the Police Services Act.
“I don’t have an option under the Police Services Act. It has to be that way so the sentencing, that’s when we can look at other options,” he said.
The charges come days after Const. James Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder in the shooting death of Toronto teen Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013.
Mike McCormack, President of the Toronto Police Association, which represents nearly 5,500 uniformed and 2,500 civilian members, said it has been a rough week for the service but reminded the public the charges against the four officers are unproven allegations.
“All of our officers take their jobs seriously and are very professional. It does have an impact on morale and our officers,” said McCormack. “We’ll do our jobs and we’ll get through it.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters at city hall he has faith in Saunders, the police department and the judicial process as this case unfolds.
“In a big organization like this, are you going to have incidents that happens sometimes in bunches that are troubling and concerning? Of course,” Tory said.
“And the real measure is how you handle those and how you deal with those. And I certainly heard the chief very firm in his determination to make sure that these things are handled in a way that the public can have confidence.”
The accused are scheduled to make a court appearance on March 11.
VIDEO: Mayor Tory says he has confidence in Toronto Police Service after officers arrested
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