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Statement by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin regarding Durham police press release

Date: 2013-08-26

TORONTO (August 26, 2013) – On August 8, just prior to my press conference announcing an investigation into provincial direction to police services in de-escalation of conflict situations, my office became aware of an abusive Twitter account. The account featured a series of hateful, malicious and bigoted messages personally directed at me.

Within minutes, my office determined that the account had originated in the name of an officer in the Durham Regional Police Service and was identified by his badge number. The tweets lashing out at me – as well as a Toronto city councillor – appeared to have been in reaction to the controversy over a recent shooting by Toronto police of a young man on a streetcar.

I responded to the tweets publicly and included the DRPS Twitter handle, ensuring the police service was instantly aware that one of its staff was attacking public officials. Thus exposed, the account was swiftly taken down.

When the DRPS moved to investigate this very serious matter, I directed my staff to co-operate fully. Just this morning, we set a meeting for Wednesday to have DRPS investigators meet with my senior IT and investigations staff.

I was surprised to learn this afternoon that the investigation had already concluded and that an officer is now facing charges under the disciplinary provisions of the Police Services Act.

Regrettably, it appears that a Durham police officer not only personally attacked public officials on Twitter, but impersonated a colleague in doing so – hiding behind the name and badge number of Det.-Const. Scott Dennis. Both Det.-Const. Dennis and I were duped by this disgraceful, malicious act.

I commend Durham police for taking this matter so seriously, and I will follow further developments in the case with interest.