Update: see previous posts – September 11, 2015 Ontario: Heroin was Planted on the Vehicle Console by the Police, April 24, 2015 Warrant Thrown Out Due to Police Misinforming Justice of the Peace, September 30, 2014 Toronto: Drug Squad Officer’s Evidence Thrown Out By Judge
When an expletive-filled video of Durham police Const. James Ebdon threatening to beat up a man and plant cocaine on him went viral in 2013, very little information was provided as to when and why the incident occurred.
The police wouldn’t even confirm at the time the identity of the officer, who says in the 8 ½-minute clip outside a known Oshawa crack house: “You give me attitude and I’m gonna f—ing drag you uptown. I’m gonna say you assaulted me. I’m gonna say you threatened me.”
The force told the Star in 2013 that Ebdon was disciplined for discreditable conduct, but wouldn’t disclose his penalty.
A recent court case has now filled in the blanks, with a Superior Court judge taking the rare step of saying that Ebdon “committed several criminal offences in the course of his duties.”
Durham police spokesman Dave Selby told the Star last week that Ebdon would not be available for an interview. He is not facing any criminal charges.
“Const. Ebdon continues to work for us,” said Selby. “Although I can’t discuss any internal personnel files, I can say any court ruling or comment by a justice that we become aware of is taken seriously and reviewed.”
The court case in question stems from Project Kingfisher, a massive drug bust undertaken by Durham and Peterborough police and the OPP’s Biker Enforcement Unit dating back to 2011 in which 28 people were arrested.
One of the accused was Harley Guindon, who, along with several co-accused, had his charges stayed by the Crown in the last two weeks. His trial was set to begin Sept. 14. The Crown provided no reasons for the stay.
In June, Guindon asked Justice Laura Bird, a former Crown attorney appointed to the bench just six months prior, to exclude evidence obtained through dialed number recorder and tracking warrants, arguing that the police did not provide enough information to prove they had reasonable grounds to monitor him.
Bird dismissed his application, but not without delivering a blistering assessment of Ebdon’s conduct, whose story changed several times on the stand.
While Bird said Ebdon was not an investigator in Project Kingfisher, she wrote that his videotaped interaction with the man outside the house — identified as Bradley Cox, an acquaintance of Guindon’s — should have been included by a Durham police detective constable in the information to obtain (ITO) the warrants.
The infamous video was played in court, and Bird noted that Ebdon can be heard saying into his police radio “we think he is associated to Harley Guindon.”
“The Crown fairly makes no attempt to defend the conduct of Constable Ebdon. It would be futile to do so,” Bird wrote.
“The evidence establishes that Constable Ebdon committed several criminal offences in the course of his duties. He has no appreciation for the seriousness of his conduct and continues to patrol the streets of Durham. Conduct such as that exhibited by this officer has no place in our society and it must be condemned by the court.”
Guindon’s lawyer, Alan Richter, still plans to argue that the Crown pay his client’s costs, despite the stay of proceedings.
“It’s pretty clear from the video that the purpose for Const. Ebdon dealing with Mr. Cox on that occasion was to investigate my client,” Richter told the Star.
At another point in the video, Ebdon tells Cox about how he should behave the next time they see each other: “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, whatever the f—k you want, can I suck your c—k sir, can I do a backflip.”
Ebdon first testified before Bird that he had prepared no notes or reports about the interaction, yet a report he authored dated Dec. 6, 2011, emerged after his testimony and was sent to the defence by the Crown.
Ebdon, who Bird found was “not a credible or reliable witness,” was then called to testify again, at which point he produced a report dated Dec. 9, 2011, dealing with another interaction with Cox.
The Dec. 6 report, from the encounter caught on tape, was described as “unquestionably a work of fiction” by the judge, who also criticized two other officers who stood passively by in the video.
Ebdon wrote that Cox was “difficult to deal with,” but that he “voluntarily” emptied his own pockets to prove he had no drugs or weapons. Ebdon testified that his behaviour was justified because Cox had made threats to the officer’s family, something that is not caught on camera and that Bird wrote was not in his notes.
“I find that Constable Ebdon’s evidence in this regard was a poor attempt to justify what is unjustifiable,” she said, adding that Ebdon was docked 24 hours pay as a result of his actions caught on tape.
Policy for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, the federal agency that prosecutes drug offences, dictates that a Crown counsel must inform their supervisor in writing when a judge makes a finding that misleading evidence has been given by a police witness, so that the matter can be referred to the police. A spokesman said the agency never confirms whether this has actually been done.
Court heard that the officer who prepared the ITOs in early 2012 — when the judge said rumours were swirling among the police force about the Cox video — would have seen in the police computer system Ebdon’s two reports dealing with Cox, but he testified that he did not read them as he does not read all reports related to police targets.
Bird concluded that the officer who filed the ITOs did not intend to mislead the justice of the peace who signed off on them, and that there was still enough reliable information pulled from other sources to obtain the warrants.
“I have no confidence that the Durham Regional Police executive will do anything further with Const. Ebdon,” Richter, Guindon’s lawyer, told the Star. “What Ebdon did cast a pall on all the other officers who try and do a good job.”