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Punishment for high-ranking Toronto police officer involved in exam cheating debated at tribunal

Lawyers at a Toronto Police discipline tribunal Friday dueled over the proper punishment for the first female Black superintendent who admitted to sending exam questions to Black constables before their exam.

Supt. Stacy Clarke was desperately trying to level the playing field in an organization where question-sharing was an “open secret,” with connected officers getting a leg up from the largely white senior staff, said her lawyer, Joseph Markson, adding that it also came in the wake of the sudden cancellation of a plan to make the system more fair.

“There’s nothing like this. There’s no precedent,” said Markson. “This is a head-on collision with realities of anti-Black racism in society, in policing, and in the promotional process.”

But the lawyer for the Toronto Police Service (TPS), Scott Hutchison, said Clarke’s actions demonstrated a lack of judgment that would be inconsistent with the higher expectations of her rank, and needs to be denounced.

“This is so pernicious. It has the effect of a superintendent propagating in six new sergeants the belief that this behaviour is acceptable. Who in turn become part of the leadership of this organization and the cancer grows,” Hutchison said.


Clarke has admitted to several misconduct charges over sending the questions and failing to recuse herself from a panel that questioned a close family friend.

The TPS does have the option to fire Clarke, but instead has proposed demoting her by two ranks to staff sergeant for a year, and then promoting her to inspector, and requiring her to work her way up from there.

Markson said the “realpolitik” in the TPS would mean a permanent demotion to inspector, which he said would be a harsher punishment than the recent case of a superintendent who was reinstated to his rank a year after crashing his car after drinking at the Toronto Police Headquarters.

The tribunal has heard that Clarke felt “invisible” as the TPS’s management team rejected her advocacy for certain qualified Black candidates in a meeting in 2021.

That was the same year that the Toronto Police Service Board questioned why figures showed Black officers were not advancing at the same rate as other ethnicities, and proposed a system that would share questions with everyone. The TPS cancelled that at some point before Clarke’s actions, the tribunal heard.

There has been no concrete evidence presented at the hearing that demonstrate other officers have been sharing exam questions.

But retired Supt. David McLeod said outside the hearing that it’s not just a rumour.

“You’re not going to have anyone standing there in that forum or speaking to the media and saying so,” he said, pointing to Clarke’s actions as leaving a digital trail that has been easy for investigators to find.

“I’m not saying this should be the norm. It should not be the basis by which opportunities, training and potentials are given an opportunity to succeed or fail,” he said.

Clarke’s effort – though it broke rules – has earned her praise for some in the Black community.

“If you don’t have these organizations who are willing to accept that they are systemically racist and they need to make those changes, then it’s up to people like Stacy Clarke to say, ‘Well, look, we tried to play by the rules – I’m going to do what I have to do,’” Author Jason Peat said.

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