Former Regina police officer Colin Magee will be allowed to return to work after winning his appeal against Police Chief Evan Bray’s decision to fire him last year.
“All along, we’ve recognized this is an important part of the process. I have respect for the process and will abide by and respect the hearing officers ruling in this case,” Bray said.
During the hearing in January, Bray testified that he fired Magee for exhibiting a pattern of behaviour involving aggression and physical altercation when his authority was challenged.
In 2019, Magee was charged with two counts of common assault. While he pleaded guilty to one count involving a 13-year-old boy, in which he received a conditional discharge, he was found not guilty of the second count involving a 42-year-old man.
Magee was also charged with assault in 2017 in connection with a 2016 incident, but that charge was withdrawn after the case went through mediation.
In the decision, the hearing officer said all three incidents had slightly different circumstances and did not constitute a pattern of behaviour.
“It is with some difficulty that I must conclude that Chief Bray has not established, on a balance of probabilities, that Corporal Magee’s conduct was a serious departure from the expected standards and behaviours of a police officer and a significant departure from the acceptable standards of policing,” independent hearing officer Ronni Nordal said in her written decision.
Instead, Nordal said Magee was not given a reasonable opportunity to bring his performance up to an acceptable level or standard.
“The chief made no reference to consideration of treatment, guidance, coaching or counselling,” she said. “It is my conclusion that discipline short of dismissal ought to have been imposed.”
During the hearing, Magee testified that he was under a large amount of stress in both his work and personal life beginning in 2015.
He testified that his wife was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and is now on permanent disability.
Magee also said he was psychologically affected by certain incidents at work, including a ring road fatality and a youth suicide.
Then, in 2016, his father-in-law, whom he described as his best friend, died from cancer.
“Underneath the uniform is a person just like all of us and just like all of us. They go through stressors in life. And sometimes those stressors have an impact on how they behave, how they react and how and so on,” said Aaron Fox, Magee’s lawyer.
“We argued that while some discipline was necessary and still is, that it was not necessary that he be dismissed.”
Looking back, Bray said he was confident in the decision he made to fire Magee at the time.
“I’m in a position where I have to look at a situation and determine whether or not an employee is suitable based on the facts I have before me,” Bray said.
“The hearing officer agreed with many of the points I made in reaching my decision, but ultimately decided dismissal wasn’t the route that should have happened based on the circumstances and information.”
Nordal said that the assault Magee pleaded guilty to, the one involving a 13-year-old boy, was deserving of police discipline, and that she found the incident disturbing.
“Almost equally disturbing is watching two other members of the Regina Police Service standing immediately beside Corporal Magee and (the boy) and doing absolutely nothing with little, if any reaction,” Nordal wrote.
She also wrote it was “without question or hesitation” that the assault on the boy would undermine public confidence in the RPS.
As for when Magee will return to work, his lawyer said those details still need to be worked out.
“There’s a bit of a process that has to go through in terms of reinstating him,” Fox said.
“As we indicated, he’s always accepted that he’s going to have to be subject to some discipline. So that’ll have to get sorted out — where he’ll be assigned, what his duties will be.”
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