FILE -- Lawyer Seth Weinstein, who represented police detectives accused of misconduct, has already filed an appeal into the decision against his clients.
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THUNDER BAY -- City police officers found guilty of misconduct plan to appeal a hearing’s decision to penalize them.
Det. William Wowchuck and Det.-Const. Brad Bernst were each found guilty of a count of misconduct by unlawful or unnecessary authority, which stems from an arrest last September outside of a Money Mart on Memorial Avenue.
Office of the Independent Review Director hearing officer Morris Elbers sentenced Wowchuck, who was the supervisor during the arrest, to eight hours without pay and remedial training Tuesday.
Bernst will receive a reprimand and similar training.
Their lawyer, Seth Weinstein, said he has already filed an appeal.
“We’re still very disappointed that there was a finding of misconduct made at all,” Weinstein said.
“We acknowledge that (the arrest) was a mistake in hindsight but it didn‘t deserve a finding of misconduct or any penalty whatsoever.”
The incident that led to the hearing took place in September of 2011. The officers, who are members of the local police force's drug enforcement street team, were watching a suspected drug house on Oliver Road when they decided to arrest the driver of the first car they saw leave the home.
The complainant Richard Burns, was the driver police targeted.
The hearing officer heard that Burns was followed to Money Mart where the arrest was made by Bernst and Wowchuck. Burns was released a short time later.
In his decision Elbers said that the officers never saw any people leaving or entering the home on Oliver Road.
Based on testimony from six witnesses over the four-day hearing in July he said it was clear the officers wouldn’t have been able to see where people from cars parked in the laneway near the home were going.
The hearing officer concluded that there were no reasonable grounds to arrest Burns. Instead it appeared to be a “wish and a prayer” by the officers.
While an appeal has already been filed, Elbers said in his decision that the penalty could have been more severe had it not been for numerous commendations submitted to the hearing. He also said their actions damaged the reputation of the police force.
Thunder Bay Police Service deputy chief Andy Hay said he thought the officers acted professionally during the hearing but anytime something negative happens it does reflect badly on the force because police are held to a higher standard.
“Higher accountability than anybody else in our community,” he said.
Hay said he didn’t know what the training for the officers would look like.
“They made a split second decision it turned out their decision was incorrect.”
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