TORONTO — A Toronto police officer has been found not guilty of disciplinary charges for his actions in the arrest and release of Bruce McArthur three years before the serial killer was convicted.
Sgt. Paul Gauthier faced charges of insubordination and neglect of duty related to his handling of a complaint by a man who alleged McArthur tried to strangle him.
According to an agreed statement of facts in the hearing, Gauthier did not record a video statement from the man or photograph his injuries a second time after the incident, as required, and he and another officer concluded there were no reasonable grounds to charge McArthur.
McArthur pleaded guilty in January 2019 to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men with ties to Toronto’s gay village.
Hearing officer Dave Andrews, a retired superintendent of the Peel Regional Police, concluded that he couldn’t “pretend the investigation was perfect.”
But Andrews wrote that he could not “find that any police officer had a mandatory obligation according to the terminology in the procedures” to obtain the additional evidence.
“The policy must not only be clear and cogent, but the policy must be continually reiterated and reinforced so that its requisite application is understood throughout the organization,” Andrews wrote.
“Otherwise, as here, ambiguity undermines the important objectives that the policy is designed to serve.”
Gauthier pleaded not guilty to the charges.
McArthur was arrested in January 2018 and an internal probe related to the case began shortly afterwards.
According to the statement of particulars in the hearing’s ruling, Gauthier was working an evening shift on June 20, 2016, and learned that McArthur, who was under arrest, and the alleged victim met that day in a vehicle and started making out.
During that time, McArthur allegedly put his hands around the man’s throat and started to choke him. After a brief struggle the man broke free, left the vehicle and contacted police.
McArthur turned himself in to police, the particulars section of the hearing’s ruling stated. It noted that a video recording of the suspect’s statement was taken, but only a written statement from the alleged victim was taken.
The ruling noted that Gauthier was a trained domestic violence investigator.
Andrews wrote that he had no doubt that the Toronto Police Service appreciates the significance of domestic violence, noting it has developed policies, procedures, and training for responding to domestic violence.
However, he wrote there appears to be a “disconnect with respect to how those procedures are interpreted by some members of TPS.”
Andrews also wrote that he wasn’t convinced the outcome would have been different if Gauthier had followed the procedures.
“I cannot imagine the trauma experienced by the victim and I am … grateful that he had strength and military training that no doubt saved his life on that day,” Andrews wrote.
“While I would have preferred further steps to be taken, nothing has been presented to demonstrate, to any degree of certainty, that had those steps been taken, Sergeant Gauthier could have formed reasonable grounds.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2021.