Trying a case in the media? Fair or Unfair?

THUNDER BAY – On April 6th, the Thunder Bay Police Service shared: “Sergeant Mauro has been charged with Deceit and Discreditable Conduct with respect to allegations that on or about October 16, 2009, he was involved in an arbitration hearing and in support of his position, he provided the arbitrator a letter, which appeared to be from an officer who, at the time, was President of the Thunder Bay Police Association. It is alleged further that Sergeant Mauro wrote the letter and submitted it as being authored by the President”.
The incident was reported on NetNewsledger.com, along with other local media outlets.
What is interesting are the different approaches being taken in the reporting, and the availability for comments on this story. On TBNewswatch.com comments have been disabled for the story. At the Chronicle Journal several letters to the editor have been published from individuals with opinions from both sides of the story.
All media outlets have the right, and the ability to determine what will, or will not be published. That is part of a free press.
The facts of this matter are not all public, so the reality is that people forming their opinions right now are doing so either based on only part of the facts, or perhaps because of personal reasons. One of the letters to the editor appears to have been penned by a City of Thunder Bay Police Staff Sergeant.
The letter was not written by the individual identifying himself as a member of the police service. However the letter writer has the same name as one of Thunder Bay Police Service Staff Sergeants on the Ontario Sunshine List.
That is not to suggest that as a police officer that those individuals should not have the right to an opinion. As all people do, everyone has an opinion, and the right to it.
However for a police officer, there are different standards which are put in place by legislation.
Under the legislation; The Police Services Act R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER P.15:
49.  (1)  A member of a police force shall not engage in any activity,
(a) that interferes with or influences adversely the performance of his or her duties as a member of a police force, or is likely to do so;
(b) that places him or her in a position of conflict of interest, or is likely to do so;
Perhaps one of the issues here might be for the Thunder Bay Police Service to examine if the letter that the police sergeant wrote admonishing a fellow Staff Sergeant might cause issue with his fellow officers, or in his abilities to perform his job. Police officers likely follow the media, just as regular citizens do, only they would know that it was a fellow officer who submitted the letter on one of their fellow officers.
Not being a lawyer, I won’t attempt to interpret the law, or to direct how the Chief of Police might act. While Sergeant Mauro is facing allegations and a legal proceeding, there are rights that he has. When comments are made by members of the police, or by the public which are published, it places Mauro in the position of having his case tried in the media.
That is not, however how the process works, or should work. Not knowing all of the facts, my opinion is that commenting on the entire incident wouldn’t be right.
Once the incident has made it through the process, there will then be a decision which people can debate. Until then, perhaps it is best to wait, and allow the complete incident to make it through the system.
What should be considered is that Staff Sergeant Mauro is sitting on paid leave during his suspension. Surely within the department there are administrative desk duties that could be performed. Right now, the penalty is to Mauro sitting at home, and to taxpayers who are likely paying overtime for other officers to perform duties that Mauro could be doing.
That of course is just my opinion, as always, your mileage may vary.
James Murray

Police Act: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p15_e.htm

List of Employees making over $100,000.00: http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/publications/salarydisclosure/2010/munic10a.html