Abdulkadir Mohamoud is a struggling Toronto cabbie and father of three. He would like to boost his typically meagre take-home pay by driving wheelchair taxis, under contract with the TTC.
Standing in the way is a 1999 run-in with a now-disgraced Toronto drug squad team that resulted in a broken arm and other injuries, and charges of possession of khat and assaulting police.
The charges were withdrawn without any conditions in 2000 but continue to show up in what is known as a “vulnerable sector check,” which, under a TTC contract, must be clear for someone to drive a wheelchair cab.
Mohamoud believes being able to drive wheelchair cabs would boost his weekly income by about $150.
His wife has a cleaning job. The two have a daughter in university and two younger children who will soon be looking at college or university as well.
“We are surviving,” Mohamoud, 52, says while waiting for calls at a North York gas station.
The Star first wrote of Mohamoud’s encounter with police in 1999, and again in 2000, at a time when dozens of drug cases were imploding because of investigations into corruption in the Central Field Command team 3 drug squad.
This summer, five former members of team 3 — including John Schertzer, the boss of team 3, and Ned Maodus — were found guilty by a jury of attempting to obstruct justice over events unrelated to Mohamoud’s story.
Their sentencing hearing is scheduled for November and an appeal is a possibility.
While charges went away for many serious alleged drug figures because officers were under the microscope, the circumstances surrounding Mohamoud’s arrest, his injuries and outright withdrawal of charges support what he continues to maintain — that he did nothing wrong.
Team 3 of the Central Field Command drug squad, including officers Schertzer and Maodus, burst through the door of a west-end Toronto residence on April 27, 1999.
It would be one of their last busts.
By then, the behaviour of the team was on the radar of senior brass. There had been numerous complaints of excessive force, warrantless searches and theft.
That same month, a group of Toronto lawyers signed off on a letter that said they had clients who told similar stories of alleged abuse and rip-offs by the team.
Khat is a plant that when chewed produces mild stimulation. It is popular in the Canadian Somali and Ethiopian communities. While perfectly legal in some countries, in Canada khat’s active ingredient, cathinone, is classified as a Schedule III illegal drug, along with other, stronger stimulants such as amphetamines.
In the ’90s, Toronto police were cracking down and causing a stir as they did.
According to search warrant documents the Star viewed, an informant had told police about a home where high-quality khat could be bought, along with the name of a woman who sold it. Mohamoud was visiting the home when Schertzer, Maodus and other officers stormed in.
Police alleged Mohamoud had khat in his mouth, tried to escape and had to be subdued.
Mohamoud and others present said otherwise, and that police kicked him in the head while he was down, and that he became unconscious. When he awoke, he said, he was handcuffed and his feet were tied at the ankles with a telephone cord.
Mohamoud complained that he could barely breathe and called for help.
He alleged in his complaint that an officer other than Schertzer and Maodus came over, said “F—ing Somalians, why don’t you do something with your lives,” and stepped on him. That’s when he heard his right arm crack. Police spent more than an hour in the house.
At one point, Mohamoud told the Star, restraints were removed and an officer asked him to touch his nose and he could not. An officer apologized, he said.
He was later taken to hospital, where his right arm was placed in a cast and his left, damaged during the arrest as well, had to be supported by a sling.
There were eight people at the house. The woman named by the informant was not among the occupants and was never arrested. Mohamoud was the only person charged.
A complaint Mohamoud filed against police was dismissed in 2000 due to insufficient evidence. A police investigator cited inconsistencies in civilian witness accounts and found the police version of events, gleaned from notes and written statements, consistent.
The criminal charges against Mohamoud were withdrawn without any conditions, says Toronto lawyer Paul Copeland, who represented Mohamoud.
Copeland says his client was badly treated by police and that he is trying to help him out of his situation with the background check. He wrote TTC general manager Andy Byford and TTC chair Karen Stintz asking for an exception.
There won’t be one, a TTC spokesperson told the Star.
“Mr. Mohamoud will need to deal with Toronto police to have this issue cleared up,” Danny Nicholson said in an email. “If, at a later date, Mr. Mohamoud is able to pass the check, the TTC will review his application.”
Copeland is now going to try the police as well, but says he’s not “wildly optimistic” and that charges without convictions, or cases that end in a peace bond, “really screw up a lot of people” when it comes to employment.
On Monday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association plans to release a report criticizing the inclusion of withdrawn charges and simple contacts with police in background checks. Such inclusions “may undermine the presumption of innocence and lead to unwarranted discrimination and stigma,” the CCLA said in a press release.
Mohamoud would love to see his record cleared up.
“That would be the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says.
But he does not see the logic behind the TTC requirement for a clear check. His employer does not have a problem with him. And he drives ailing clients all the time.
“This is my dilemma,” he says, pointing to a hospital near the gas station. “I could take a sick person from this hospital to their home but not a person with a wheelchair. It makes no sense.”
Mohamoud watched with interest as the drug squad saga unfolded. Now that officers have been convicted by a jury, he believes police should cleanse his record.
“If I was a criminal, I would have done something (illegal) from then to now. My charges were withdrawn. It shouldn’t hold me from this work.”