$1 million later, officers in vulgar BBM group departing WRPS payroll
Three-and-a-half years after they were first suspended, a trio of Waterloo Regional Police officers are no longer receiving paychecks.
Const. Jeff Vongkhamphou, Const. Graeme Kobayashi and Const. Timothy Green were all fired in early 2014 after all three were convicted of deceit and a number of other offences under the Police Services Act.
They had been involved in a private BlackBerry Messenger group, where they used vulgar language to describe citizens they encountered while on the job, and even shared nude photos of one such person.
All three appealed their dismissals, which kept them on the WRPS payroll as long as the case remained before the courts.
This week, they learned that their appeals were denied.
Paul Perchaluk, the president of the Waterloo Regional Police Association, called the decision an “unfortunate” outcome.
“Did they make a mistake? Yes they did, but they are basically fine young people,” he said in an interview.
Vongkhamphou stopped receiving pay Monday, while the other two will be in the same position next Monday.
While Vongkhamphou’s firing was effective immediately, Green and Kobayashi were given seven days to resign instead of being fired – allowing for a similar delay before they receive their last paycheck.
Between them, the trio had earned nearly $1 million since their initial suspensions took effect.
Provincial laws stipulate that all three are able to retain that money.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police has called for chiefs to be allowed to suspend officers without pay – something currently impossible under the Police Services Act, although Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin thinks change may be in the cards.
“We’re quite confident that sometime this year, the government will understand the need for change … and put in place a rigorous system that allows chiefs the opportunity to suspend without pay,” he told CTV News.
Perchaluk agrees that changes to the system are needed.
The change he envisions, though, has less to do with unpaid suspensions and more to do with shortening the judicial process.
“It takes too long,” he said.
“The general public never, if they were charged with something, would allow it to go on for so long.”
Allowing for unpaid suspensions could let policing organizations “starve the officers out,” Perchaluk said.
David Butt, the lawyer who represented Vongkhamphou and Kobayashi, said his clients followed standard procedure and had no control over the amount of time it took to move through the appeals process.