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Penalty hearing underway for Toronto police superintendent over cheating scandal

A prosecutor for the Toronto Police Service told a police tribunal hearing Monday that an appropriate penalty for Supt. Stacy Clarke, who admitted to a promotional cheating scandal in 2021, would be a demotion of two ranks to staff sergeant for one year.

Scott Hutchison suggested after that year, Clarke would return to rank of inspector and at the end of another year as inspector, she would be eligible to apply for further promotion — but there would be no automatic return to the position of Superintendent.

Hutchison explained there were two reasons for his submission.

“First, it would be strange for someone who had pled guilty to conduct that attacked the integrity of the promotional process to be given an automatic return that rank,” he said.

“Second, the conduct that brings us here calls into question whether it’s appropriate for her to hold the rank of superintendent.”

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Hutchison told the tribunal at Toronto Police Headquarters on Monday that the conduct in question is incredibly serious and would normally invite a penalty of dismissal, but said that’s not the penalty he’s asking for.

Clarke’s lawyer, Joseph Markson, argues that a more appropriate penalty would be a demotion to rank of inspector for a period of between one year and 18 months, with an automatic re-instatement to the rank of superintendent.

Click to play video: 'Toronto Police Superintendent Stacy Clarke facing 7 charges under the Police Services Act'

Toronto Police Superintendent Stacy Clarke facing 7 charges under the Police Services Act

Clarke pleaded guilty to seven counts of misconduct under the Police Services Act last September, admitting she helped six Black officers who were vying for promotions from the rank of constable to sergeant.

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She admitted to sending questions and answers from promotional interviews she had participated in to officers who were preparing for those interviews. She also sat on an interview panel for an officer, whom she admitted to being a close family friend. Clarke was the managing superintendent of 42 Division at the time.

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Markson asked the tribunal to consider what motivated Clarke, who was promoted to be the first female Black superintendent in the history of the Toronto Police Service in 2020, to resort to desperate acts to level the playing field among officers vying for a promotion.

“Why did this police officer with an exemplary record commit serious misconduct?” Markson queried, telling the hearing that Clarke’s perception that inequitable things were taking place in the TPS were mitigating factors in her conduct.

Click to play video: 'Toronto Police Superintendent Stacy Clarke facing 7 charges under the Police Services Act'

Toronto Police Superintendent Stacy Clarke facing 7 charges under the Police Services Act

Markson said while Clarke admitted and pleaded guilty to serious acts of misconduct, she is extremely remorseful but acted out of despair, hurt and pain. Markson pointed to two reports written by a forensic psychiatrist and a letter Clarke wrote herself explaining her misconduct.

In the letter, which Clarke wrote in January 2022, read out by Markson, she explained the unfair treatment she had experienced at every rank. She wrote that others involved in the promotional interview process were lobbying on behalf of candidates and when she attempted to join conversations, she felt desperate and frustrated.

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“The differential treatment experienced by the candidates I was mentoring was painful to me. Frustrated, I was unable to bring their many strengths into the conversation. I felt at this time, they did not have a fair chance in the process. I felt invisible in the space. I decided that if the opportunity presented itself, I would assist the candidates and make a desperate effort to level the playing field,” she wrote.

Clarke wrote she shared all of this not to justify or excuse her misconduct rather to explain her feelings of desperation. “It’s not how I’ve conducted myself in the past. It’s not how I will conduct myself moving forward,” Markson said, reading from the letter. Clarke wiped away tears as she listened to Markson.

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Five officers who were involved in the cheating scandal were dealt with at the divisional level receiving between ten and twenty days without pay. Constable Horace Harvey pled guilty to one count of discredible conduct and received a six-month demotion from first class to second class constable and returned to second class constable after his demotion.

Markson has now begun calling a number of character witnesses who are speaking to Clarke’s exemplary career. Former chief Mark Saunders was asked by Markson if Clarke should be returned to the rank of superintendent. “I believe so, yes. This is totally out of character,” Saunders said calling Clarke and excellent leader.

The hearing continues.

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