Const. Emmanuel Diafwila has been given seven days to resign or face being fired by the Ottawa police for incompetence. He plans to appeal the police disciplinary hearing findings. Photograph by: Chloé Fedio , Ottawa Citizen
Retraining efforts failed for officer who got lost, drove through stop signs during seven-year career
OTTAWA — An Ottawa police officer shook his head as he was ordered to resign within seven days or face dismissal after being found guilty in a rare case of “unsatisfactory work performance” at a professional disciplinary hearing.
Const. Emmanuel Diafwila, 32, said he plans to appeal the order, delivered Thursday morning.
“I think it’s unfair. I really think it’s unfair,” he said.
The hearing officer said that Diafwila’s “less than stellar employment history” and inability to learn from his mistakes indicates that he “is simply not suited to policing.”
Retired superintendent Robert J. Fitches told Diafwila on Thursday: “All that could have been done was done.”
Fitches delivered the initial 19-page decision under the Police Services Act in January.
Concerns included that Diafwila had someone in his cruiser without permission, stood too close to a potentially aggressive drunk person, failed to make a court appearance, got lost after refusing to use his mobile data terminal and drove through stop signs, the ruling detailed.
This is the first time that an Ottawa officer has been asked to quit over unsatisfactory performance.
“It is rare and it is a very severe penalty and it’s unfortunate that the service took that position,” said Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association. “It’s a very difficult thing for an officer to go through.”
Diafwila was hired by the Ottawa Police Service in 2006 and was cleared to patrol independently after six-month probationary period. It wasn’t until January 2009 that he was informed there were concerns about his work performance, his legal counsel Paul Champ said.
Despite a lack of documented complaints and no feedback on how improve for nearly three years, Diafwila agreed to more training in January 2009, Champ pointed out.
Champ added that Diafwila has testified in dozens of cases with no criticism from the prosecutors. Diafwila said he was on duty the one day he failed to show up in traffic court — what he described as an honest mistake.
Diafwila took English-language lessons to boost his report-writing skills. He had only become fluent in English after coming to Canada as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998. He also speaks French, Lingala and Swahili.
He worked alongside other officers for hundreds of hours of coaching and mentorship, and completed additional classroom, scenario and driver training between 2009 to the end of 2011.
The process was “far from perfect” but Diafwila was given ample opportunity and “did not improve to the degree that was required to permit him to patrol independently,” Fitches ruled, after a hearing that lasted more than 20 days spanning several months.
“Not everyone is suited for every vocation,” Fitches wrote in his January decision. “Constable Diafwila is a remarkable young man who was given an extraordinary length of time and countless resources were utilized to assist him in achieving success. Regrettably for all concerned, it was all to no avail.”
Fitches wrote that though the evidence “might appear to be rather minor and perhaps inconsequential, it is the cumulative effect of this evidence that needs to be evaluated.”
The decision outlines how seven different officers assigned to mentor and evaluate Diafwila had “remarkably similar” concerns relating to improper search, inadequate search of a prisoner, lack of geographic awareness and poor investigative and interviewing skills.
The choice of mentors was criticized during the hearing — one was characterized as a bully, another as too junior, putting Diafwila in a “humiliating” position, Champ argued.
Diafwila testified that one of his mentors, Const. Evan Hung, told him that his breath “stunk.” Hung denied using that language, according to the ruling.
“Whether he did or did not, the situation resulted in a level of tension between these two men that was not helpful,” Fitches wrote. “I can think of very few situations that would be much more delicate than this situation. There is truly no completely safe way in which to broach this subject with anyone.” Fitches added that he though Hung was a good mentor.
“There was no evidence of anything less than professional attempts to bring Constable Diafwila up to an acceptable level of performance. Throughout the process, it was obvious that those involved wanted him to succeed,” Fitches wrote.
Diafwila has been suspended with pay since December 2011.