FILE -- From the left, Thunder Bay Police Service officers William Wowchuck, Ron Popowich and Brad Bernst.
Tony and Adams PartiesCocktail Parties, Birthday Parties, Receptions and Showers...click here and book your party at TnA's today!Click Here
THUNDER BAY -- Opposing lawyers agree that the two officers found guilty of misconduct are good cops who made a bad mistake.
The hearing into the misconduct of two Thunder Bay Police Services officers continued at the Balmoral Street police station on Wednesday. Office of the Independent Review Director hearing officer Morris Elbers found Det. William Wowchuck and Det.-Const. Brad Bernst guilty of misconduct in September.
Det.-Const. Ron Popowich was found not guilty.
While lawyers offered their submissions for sentencing considerations Wednesday, the officers won't learn their fate until later in October.
The misconduct charges stem from the unlawful arrest of Richard Burns last year outside of a Money Mart on Memorial Avenue.
Both lawyers at the hearing described Wowchuck and Bernst as hardworking with spotless records, dedicated to their job and to the community, and were acting in an honourable fashion.
But they made a mistake.
Defence lawyer Seth Weinstein recommended the officers receive a reprimand only, arguing that the public hearing was itself a form of punishment.
“This finding of misconduct is a black mark,” Weinstein said. “It’s a mistake that’s going to follow them through their careers. It’s a stigma that’s going to follow them. They weren’t cowboys arresting anybody. They made a mistake and the punishment should reflect that it was a mistake with honourable intentions.”
Weinstein argued that Elbers needed to consider that the two were model officers and that this incident was the only blemish on their record and Burns was arrested for 10 minutes then released.
Prosecutor Bernd Richardt recommended the two officers receive a modest financial penalty as well as retraining, which would include when an arrest should be made.
“An arrest is a serious matter,” Richardt said.
“This was seen as somewhat acceptable. I want to submit that it was not appropriate. An arrest is traumatic and embarrassing."
Richardt said the two officers’ motives were good but they still infringed on Burns civil liberties and they have to ensure that they send a message to other police officers as well as the public that their actions aren’t appropriate.
Elbers said he will give his decision on Oct. 23 at 12:30 p.m. at the police station.
Elbers also noted Burns absence despite waiting 25 minutes for him to arrive.
Click here to submit a letter to the editor.