Ottawa police chief asks OPP to investigate senior officers for alleged criminal conduct

Ottawa police chief asks OPP to investigate senior officers for alleged criminal conduct

Ottawa's police chief is calling for the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate senior officers on his own force for potential wrongdoing for actions they took during a criminal probe into a tactical training explosion three years ago.

In an email to all members of the Ottawa Police Service, Chief Charles Bordeleau said he contacted OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes earlier Monday to ask that all "aspects of this matter be investigated by his police service."

Bordeleau called for the OPP investigation after defence lawyer Michael Edelson sent him a letter along with documents alleging criminal conduct by several senior members of the force.

Sources tell CBC News the letter alleges senior officers gave false statements to the Special Investigations Unit while it probed the 2014 tactical training explosion that injured five people.

CBC has learned several officers at the rank of inspector and above were named in Edelson's letter, which was also sent to Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Marie-France Lalonde.

Official sources with knowledge of the letter, but who are not authorized to comment, told CBC Edelson outlined several potential charges in his correspondence, including obstruction of justice and mischief.

CBC is not publishing the names of the senior officers named in the letter because they have not been charged.

Sources said Edelson stumbled on the potentially damaging documents during disclosure as he was preparing for the trial of his client, Sgt. Martin Rukavina. Rukavina was one of three tactical officers charged by the SIU with criminal negligence and breach of duty following the explosion.

Charges against officers stayed in September

The SIU also charged Constables Serge Clement and Carl Grimard. The Crown stayed those charges last September, explaining that inconsistencies in how SWAT teams were trained made it difficult to determine whether the Ottawa officers were negligent or just following accepted practices.

The Crown said its case largely depended on whether it was criminally negligent for the officers to have used flammable windshield wiper fluid instead of water in a device designed to create a controlled explosion to blow open a door.

The use of wiper fluid resulted in a giant fireball that rolled down the hallway and up the stairs of an abandoned home on March Road in Kanata. Paramedics Craig MacInnes and Reid Purdy were severely burned, while another paramedic and two other police officers suffered minor injuries.

The Crown's case was also weakened after its expert witness — RCMP Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who ran the explosive training program at the Canadian Police College — was accused of sexual harassment and public nudity in the workplace. The RCMP suspended Solesme in February 2016.

Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Eli El-Chantiry said the board was notified last week that the Ministry of Labour was withdrawing five charges against the board in connection with the incident. The ministry had previously withdrawn charges against City of Ottawa.

Three months after the June 2014 explosion, CBC Ottawa received a copy of a letter sent to the SIU signed by unnamed "Constables of the Ottawa Police Tactical Unit." The letter alleged senior police officers ignored the concerns of the SWAT team during the dangerous training exercise.