Off-duty officer involved in hit-and-run could see more charges, internal discipline: Winnipeg police chief
Chief Danny Smyth told reporters that the ongoing investigation being carried out by Manitoba’s Independent Investigations Unit could result in further charges.
Published Friday, October 13, 2017 1:54PM CST
Winnipeg’s police chief said an officer charged in connection with the hit-and-run death of a 23-year-old man could face further charges as well as internal discipline measures.
Cody Severight died after being hit by a vehicle Tuesday night at Main Street and Sutherland Avenue.
Following the crash, Const. Justin Holz, 34, was charged with impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving death.
On Friday, Chief Danny Smyth told reporters that the ongoing investigation being carried out by Manitoba’s Independent Investigations Unit could result in further charges.
“One of the charges that typically would be laid when there is an impaired involved is an over .08,” Smyth explained, saying that charge can come as a result of “breath tests” and “mathematical calculations going back,” and since officers weren’t able to do that at the time, “we could see a charge like that still being laid down the road.”
Smyth also said that when an officer’s conduct is being investigated, police will carry out an internal review alongside the criminal investigation carried out by the IIU.
“We typically don’t, we don’t go out public with that,” Smyth said.
“It’s in-house, but it goes on nonetheless,” he said, adding that the internal review could lead to a recommendation that an officer be dismissed that would be subject to approval by the city’s CAO, working as part of a committee.
Smyth said in such cases, he would use information gleaned from the IIU’s investigation, but that police don’t have to wait for the criminal matter to be resolved in court.
“If I consider their conduct to be so egregious that they can’t continue as a police member, my recommendation would be to dismiss,” Smyth said.
Smyth responds to perception of a culture of impaired driving among police
Smyth told reporters police officers are no different from other workers who socialize after work, sometimes with alcohol.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with police officers doing that. What I have a problem with, and where I kinda draw the line, is what people do if they’ve had too much to drink.”
On Wednesday, Robert Taman, whose wife was killed in a collision with an off-duty officer, spoke out about a cultural problem of police driving while impaired.
Smyth said he sees impaired driving as more of “a problem in our society in general.”
“We see people that get killed in car accidents and with impaired driving. Our officers are part of the community too; we’re not immune from those problems.”
Smyth also said when it comes to dealing internally with problem drinking among officers, discipline wouldn’t be his first approach.
“Like anything in our society, when we become aware that somebody might be struggling with a problem, my first instinct is to try to help them,” he said, adding that officers have access to resources for help.
“If they get involved in conduct that involves criminal conduct, that really limits what I can do.”