Letter to Larkin is right on the money

By  | January 22, 2018 | 2 Comments | Filed under: Waterloo Police class action lawsuit
Opinion Jan 20, 2018by Luisa D’Amato Waterloo Region Record



Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin. – Mathew McCarthy,Record staff

If I were Chief Bryan Larkin, I might be looking for another lawyer for the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

Local police are going through their own “Me Too” moment, with six current and former officers involved in a pending class-action lawsuit.

None of their allegations have been proven in court. Some incidents are reported to have happened decades ago. But they are sickening to read. They should be taken seriously.

The women say they were repeatedly bullied, discriminated against, sexually harassed and had their careers sabotaged. We’re talking about allegations like a supervisor grabbing a female officer and pressing his penis into her buttocks, or showing a female officer a photo of his genitals and asking for a nude photo of her.

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The women described an environment in which they were made to feel unwelcome, with alleged incidents like an officer punching a female colleague’s sandwich as it sat in front of her, or refusing to send backup when a female colleague was in a dangerous situation.

If they complained, they said, they were dismissed and isolated. Over time, most of the women left the service. Some developed post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

The $167-million class action suit will unfold in court over the next months and years. The truth of these allegations will be tested in the courtroom.

But until then, it leaves the leader of the police, Chief Bryan Larkin, in a difficult position.

He, as an individual, is not named in any of the allegations. As leader, he has taken care to present the service as a friendly place for marginalized people. He flew the rainbow Pride flag outside police headquarters. He set up a task force to improve police response to complaints of sexual assault.

Why, then, would he tolerate such a harsh statement from police lawyer James Bennett?

Bennett’s statement earlier this month on the lawsuit should have been the standard “no comment,” as often happens when allegations await their day in court.

Instead, Bennett went out of his way to discredit the six plaintiffs — before a single word of testimony has been uttered.

He said that “we believe” their statements “contain untrue, exaggerated, misleading and/or defamatory allegations … which we vehemently deny.”

No doubt it makes some of the remaining demoralized officers in the police force feel better, to hear such strong language.

But for those of us watching from outside, it gives a taste of the harsh response that the dissenter within could expect.

And also, it sends a message to people in the community who have been sexually assaulted and want to call the police for help. The message is: ‘We don’t believe these people. Maybe we won’t believe you, either.’

That’s the reason five people on a task force helping the police service took the extraordinary step of sending an open letter to Larkin, saying that they are “deeply troubled” by Bennett’s words.

The letter which you can read here warns of the “far-reaching, negative impacts on women and girls, particularly survivors of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence” of these kinds of messages.

The task force is there to help local police improve their response to complaints of sexual assault in the community. But the comments of lawyer Bennett have pushed their work backwards. He should retract his comments. Or else step away from this case.

ldamato@therecord.com , Twitter: @DamatoRecord




2 Responses to Letter to Larkin is right on the money

  1. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Sharron January 22, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    This was a good letter that the Police Department needs to read.

  2. lvann_11@sympatico.ca'
    Tom Vann February 14, 2018 at 8:48 am

    It looks like for now at least that the powerful WRPS has silenced the media and politicians. I was thinking of writing about Kathryn’s letter to the Times but won’t bother. She is looking for re-election. Same with the Premier. Nothing about the police or about the women coming forward. She is seeking re-election. Brown and the P.C.’s are idiots for not getting this dealt with earlier, I believe this was brought out by political forces. Locally, our mayor seems to have distanced himself from 2 council members mentioned in this case. He is seeking re-election. Not one single politician has mentioned the women or man that boldly have come forward. This shows me that “Votes” overshadow a moral stance. Even Kelly Donovan put her career on the line to speak out in her book. On one hand the politicians use the media to brag about how whistle-blowers need to come forward. Kind of reminds me of how the USA hung South Viet Nam and it’s Vets out to dry. If these affidavits and the lawsuit expose the WRPS to claims stated, watch for the politicians to jump on the whistleblower bandwagon for votes. Of course the retirement of one of the high ranking officers was just a coincidence. Perhaps all the people are lying against the WRPS just like in the Hollywood case that Harvey Wienstein says where all the women are lying. June will be a special month in Ontario. Careers will be on the scales of justice. Let the truth come forward.

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