Fired CBRPS Cops Get Review Board Hearing

Editor’s Note: Dorian wreaked some havoc with my ability to work this week, so I am easing back into regular publication by noting some recent developments in stories I’ve already covered. The bottom line, though, is that I am back, I have bought new school supplies (I am not kidding, I bought a box of pens and one of pencils), I’m working on two interesting pieces for upcoming issues, and Fast & Curious will once again appear regularly on Fridays, as it did before I went on semi-hiatus this summer. 

 

A Police Review Board hearing for three Cape Breton Regional Police Services (CBRPS) officers fired in March has been scheduled for October 15-24.

Constable Greg Livingstone, Sgt. Jerome Kelly and his wife Constable Roberta Kelly will appear before the board, which hears appeals from police officers about internal discipline decisions.

Livingstone and the Kellys were let go for reasons never made public following an internal CBRPS investigation. In fact, in announcing the terminations, CBRPS spokesperson Desiree Magnus didn’t even name the officers involved, instead stating:

These officers were suspended in July 2016 after a complaint was filed regarding their alleged misconduct as the result of testimony presented in a separate criminal court proceeding for forgery and impersonating a police officer.

As Livingstone told the Cape Breton Post at the time:

“I never dreamed after being cleared of two RCMP investigations that I’d be found guilty of anything.”

“I want the public to grasp that all I’m accused of is encouraging someone to leak emails to the media,” he said.

I wrote a two-parter about this back in March, so I won’t rehash everything (you can read Part I here and Part II here), but the gist of the case was that the officers involved were the vice president of the police union (Livingstone), the president of the police union (Jerome Kelly), a member of the police union (Roberta Kelly) and the local shop steward for the police union (Lavin) and the union was concerned about management’s use of unmarked vehicles and credit cards.

Lavin’s story, as recounted in court, was that Livingstone and the Kellys encouraged him to leak the union’s grievances to the media, which he did, although not particularly stealthily. Lavin was caught and charged with a number of criminal offenses for which he was found guilty and sentenced to a year’s probation. He also lost his job on the police force. Livingstone and the Kellys were first investigated by the RCMP — which found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing — then subjected to an internal investigation, which led to their terminations.

They appealed their firings and will get to make their case to the Police Review Board in October. Review board meetings are open to the public, so we should learn more about the case against Livingstone and the Kellys than we’ve been permitted to know to this point.

In preparation for the hearing, I thought it would be interesting to find out something about the Police Review Board about which, I realized, I knew nothing. So, with apologies to those of you who know the workings of this board like the backs of your hands, here’s what I found out.

 

Details

The Nova Scotia Police Review Board was established in the mid-1980s to take over responsibility for adjudicating “public complaints and for appeals by officers against decisions made in internal discipline matters” from the Nova Scotia Police Commission (itself established in 1976). The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC), which supports the Police Review Board, was created in January 2006. According to the OPCC website:

The OPCC is an arms-length agency that is funded by the Nova Scotia government.

The OPCC has a staff of four and the agency’s 2018 Annual Report estimated its 2018-19 budget at $354,000.

As of 31 December 2018, the Police Review Board — whose members are appointed by the Governor-in-Council and must number at least three — consisted of:

Jean McKenna, Chair
Simon MacDonald, Vice Chair
John Manning
Stephanie Myles
Kimberly Ross
Ann Soucie
John Withrow
Judith A. McPhee, QC, Police Complaints Commissioner

Board members serve three-year terms and may be reappointed. The review board chair must hold a bachelor’s degree in law or “a degree that the Governor in Council determines to be equivalent.”

Both the OPCC and the Police Review Board are governed by the Nova Scotia Police Act.

 

Past performance

The 2018 Annual Report for the OPCC and Police Review Board describes their functions this way:

The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) oversees the investigation of complaints by the public who allege misconduct by municipal police officers. Once the OPCC processes the complaint, it is sent to the police agency for investigation. The OPCC may conduct an independent investigation on an appeal from the public. The OPCC also provides administrative support to the Police Review Board which hears public complaints on appeal and appeals from police officers who have been disciplined.

The annual reports posted on the OPCC website include statistics on the number of appeals heard by the Police Review Board each year, although the numbers are usually not broken down into appeals from members of the public versus appeals from police officers. (Files may be sent for an independent investigation and/or a Police Review Board hearing.)

Last year, for example, four internal disciplinary hearings were referred to the Police Review Board. In 2017, the Review Board received five appeals (from the public and from officers appealing discipline) and heard one. In 2016, the Review Board received 11 appeals (again, both from members of the public and officers) which led to five independent investigations and three hearings.

The reports don’t say how the board ruled in the hearings and its decisions are only published in the case of appeals by members of the public.

What is clear, though, is that the board hears very few appeals from either officers or members of the public each year, so getting a hearing seems to be something of an accomplishment in and of itself.

The Spectator will continue to follow the case.