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Toronto cop’s misconduct an attempt to even playing field for Black officers, lawyer says

A disciplinary hearing got underway on Monday for a high-ranking Toronto police officer who has admitted to misconduct after she provided confidential information to six Black constables ahead of promotional job interviews in 2021.

Supt. Stacy Clarke, the first Black female officer to reach the rank of superintendent at the Toronto Police Service, pleaded guilty in September 2023 to seven charges under the Police Services Act. The charges include three counts of breach of confidence, three counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination.

The service has said she interfered with its internal promotions process. In 2021, Clarke served on a three-person panel that conducted interviews for promotions, but used that position to share answers with interviewees.

According to court documents, Clarke “is facing misconduct allegations for sharing interview questions with candidates who had become eligible for promotion.”

On Monday, there were few empty seats in the auditorium at police headquarters where the tribunal hearing was held because character witnesses and supporters filled the room.

The Jamaican Canadian Association organized a bus for dozens of its members to attend the hearing.

Audrey Campbell, former president of the association, testified in support of Clarke at the tribunal. She told reporters outside of the hearing that Clarke believed in the system and helped to build trust between police and the Black community.

Campbell said the lack of promotions for Black officers has been an issue for decades and “everybody is culpable” for the lack of opportunities. She added that members of the Black community often went to Clarke to talk about issues in policing.

“When we said, ‘You know, we weren’t happy with something,’ she said, ‘Yes, I know, but we’re working, we’re trying.’ And this is why we’re all here — because she’s human and she has broken under this,” Campbell said.

“She cannot be the person that is punished the hardest… How do you justify that, when you should have implemented the system that would have eliminated the necessity for this?”

Stacy Clarke becomes emotional at a Toronto Police Service tribunal at police headquarters on May 6, 2024.
Stacy Clarke becomes emotional at a Toronto Police Service tribunal at police headquarters on May 6, 2024. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Campbell said the force needs to forgive Clarke, who she described as a “beacon of trust,” and demonstrate fairness.

Joseph Markson, lawyer for Clarke, told the hearing that Clarke’s misconduct during the promotional process was out of character and a lapse in judgment. 

Markson said Clarke is extremely remorseful and that her acts were rooted in despair. 

He said her misconduct was a desperate act to equalize the playing field for Black officers after the stress of systemic racism in policing. He said Clarke experienced systemic racism herself and was trying to bridge the gap for Black other officers. 

In one instance, he said, Clarke did a mock interview with one of the officers and failed to disclose that he was a close family friend.

Prosecutor Scott Hutchison, however, told the hearing Clarke’s conduct as a senior officer is serious and would normally result in dismissal. But he said Chief Myron Demkiw believes there is still work for Clarke to do as a Toronto officer.

Hutchison proposed that Clarke be demoted two ranks to staff sergeant and be given the opportunity to reapply to become superintendent after two years.

Former Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders speaks at a Toronto Police Service tribunal on May 6, 2024 at police headquarters.
Former Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders speaks at a Toronto Police Service tribunal on May 6, 2024 at police headquarters. (Pam Davies/CBC)

At one point in the hearing, the defence called witnesses, including former police chief Mark Saunders, to the stand to testify about Clarke’s integrity.

Saunders said he promoted Clarke because of her leadership abilities and said she managed to gain the trust of Toronto’s racialized communities. 

The former chief said he believes the superintendent has been more successful than anyone in tackling the problem of racism in law enforcement.

Retired Supt. David McLeod, who worked with Clarke, said Clarke succeeded in educating the police department on issues such as systemic racism and that the department would not have progressed without her efforts. 

Markson presented to the court several letters of support that praised the work of his client in the past 26 years of her career.

According to an agreed statement of facts in the case, Clarke was promoted to the position of police superintendent in July 2020.

The disciplinary hearing will resume on Wednesday.

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