An ex-Peel police officer and Big Brother who sexually abused a young teen over several years half a century ago says he’s “haunted” by the impact the abuse had on the boy’s “downward slide in life.”
“My life went up, his life went down to the depths,” Frank Kohler said, addressing a Brampton court at a sentencing hearing Tuesday about his victim Kevin Dickman’s years of struggle with addiction, mental health and homelessness before his death in 2019.
Kohler, 75, has pleaded guilty to two counts each of indecent assault and gross indecency for sexually abusing Dickman, whom he mentored as a Big Brother, over five years from 1967 to 1972. On Tuesday, Kohler’s defence argued he deserves no jail time, saying the former officer has owned up to his actions, has shown genuine remorse, is a first-time offender and has sought professional help.
The court also heard a victim-impact statement from Dickman’s childhood friend and former Brampton neighbour, Pam Hand, herself a former Peel police sex crimes officer.
“He stole Kevin’s youth, his innocence, his trust, his entire soul,” Hand wrote in her statement.
“My heart breaks thinking of what Kevin went through. How lost and scared and betrayed he must have felt.”
The Crown argues Kohler deserves a prison sentence of four to five years, saying the court should send a strong message that deterrence against someone who held a position of trust as a police officer and mentor to young people.
Dickman’s body was pulled from the Don River in the fall of 2019. As an adult, he had long blamed, both privately and publicly, his life’s struggles on how he had been sexual abused as a boy by a police officer who was paired with him as a Big Brother.
Hand was one of the people Dickman told. About a month after his death, she contacted Kohler to confront him in a phone call, demanding he take responsibility for the abuse.
Hand then contacted investigators, and Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit announced the charges against Kohler 10 months to the day after Dickman’s body was recovered.
The sexual abuse, which included mutual fondling and masturbation on at least 30 different occasions over five years, was first brought to police attention after the Big Brothers organization was alerted and contacted police in 1974.
On Tuesday, Kohler said he confessed to Peel police that summer, saying that he gave a written statement of guilt, then was told to immediately resign and no charges would be laid.
“I resigned from the police department that day and they let me walk,” Kohler said.
Kohler said he and his wife went back to police about the abuse in the late 1980s, explaining he “wanted to make amends to Kevin” and apologize.
He said a Peel police inspector “told us not to pursue this idea, that it may be dangerous for us to do so.”
In December, Peel police acknowledged “the tragic events faced by Mr. Dickman and his family and the effects they have had on them” — but said records relating to the 1974 investigation no longer exist, citing their retention schedule and a police force amalgamation that year.
The service argued that legislation and processes around police oversight and public complaints have “significantly changed and improved” since 1974, including the creation of the SIU. “We continue to develop and improve both internal and external mechanisms which ensure robust oversight that we are confident will prevent similar circumstances from recurring in the future.”
Speaking to court on Tuesday, Kohler said he was foolish and naive when he joined the Big Brothers in the fall of 1966 and subsequently became a mentor to Dickman.
“I did not do this looking for a sexual partner or as a predator,” he said, estimating that a year or so passed before the sexual touching started, when Dickman was around 11-years-old. “I hated myself during this period of my life,” Kohler said.
He said he last saw Dickman in the spring of 1974 when Dickman was 17.
Kohler moved back to Nova Scotia in 1975. He later became a pastor at the Lake Echo Fellowship Baptist Church for almost 20 years, before becoming a regional director for a group of evangelical churches until 2019.
Last year, an executive of the church told the Star that Kohler had told the church of his wrongdoing.
Ontario Court Justice Richard J. LeDressay adjourned his decision on sentencing to April 26.
Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star