Thunder Bay – NEWS – A Police Services Act tribunal that found Thunder Bap Police Service Staff Sergeant Shawn Harrison guilty of discreditable conduct has brought down it’s ruling.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Harrison of the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) will be demoted from staff sergeant to sergeant for 18 months. During that time, Harrison must attend mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training in order to be restored to his original rank. The demotion is in response to Harrison’s role in the flawed investigation of Ojibway man Stacey DeBungee’s death in 2015.
It is expected that if at the end of the 18-month period, if Harrison’s disciplinary record remains unblemished, he would be returned to the rank of staff sergeant. The demotion, according to the decision is to ensure that TBPS officers have the necessary cultural competency to effectively and equitably handle cases involving Indigenous peoples in the future.
Harrison is appealing the decision. This means the matter will continue with the ruling being implemented.
The decision is not sitting well with the DeBungee family.
In a statement, “Today, the sentencing decision of Superintendent (Ret.) Greg Walton was released in respect of the findings of guilt against Staff Sergeant Shawn Harrison of the Thunder Bay Police Service for discreditable conduct and neglect of duty due to a discriminatory police death investigation that he conducted into the death of Stacey DeBungee. This decision, made under the Police Services Act, ordered that Staff Sergeant Harrison be demoted in rank from staff sergeant to sergeant for a term of eighteen (18) months. At the conclusion of that period, he is to be returned to the rank of staff sergeant, provided his disciplinary record remains unblemished. The decision further ordered that within three months of the release of the decision, Staff Sergeant Harrison must attend Indigenous Cultural Competency Training.
The DeBungee family was hopeful that a serious message would be sent to Staff Sergeant Harrison and other Thunder Bay Police Service members that this type of discriminatory investigation would not be tolerated, and that Staff Sergeant Harrison would be terminated from his employment. The DeBungee family feel this was a missed opportunity to address the larger issues between Indigenous people in Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police Service, and to deter similar behaviour in the future.
Jim Leonard, one of the Public Complainants in this matter, commented, “This case is emblematic of the larger issue between the Thunder Bay Police Service and Indigenous people in Thunder Bay. There is still significant work that needs to be done to repair that relationship. If the Thunder Bay Police Service is serious about repairing this relationship, they will make attempts and efforts to ensure that something like this never happens again, and that officers are truly held accountable for this type of misconduct.”
Lawyer Asha James, who acts for the Public Complainants, stated, “there is no doubt that Staff Sergeant Harrison’s failure to conduct an adequate investigation free of discrimination has left the