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Durham detective faces disciplinary charges for inappropriate tweets

A Durham Regional Police Detective is facing discipline for inappropriate comments on Twitter to the Ontario ombudsman and a Toronto city councillor.

On Aug. 8, ombudsman Andre Marin received several tweets from an account identified as “Joe Mayo,” prior to a news conference he was holding on the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by Toronto Police.

Tweets from the same account had previously been sent to a Toronto city councillor, criticizing her position on Yatim’s death on an empty streetcar on July 27.

Marin said he was called a “carded member of Al-Qaida” among other insults, and said the same Twitter user told him not to stick his nose in “business it doesn’t belong.”

The Twitter account was later deleted, but Marin identified the tweeter by name as a Durham Regional Police Officer Dennis Scott and later clarified the name as Scott Dennis.

Marin said he would co-operate with the police investigation into the tweets, but Durham Detectives said Monday they made several attempts to interview the ombudsman, but have yet to speak with him.

Durham Deputy Chief Paul Martin said an internal investigation determined that the officer identified by the ombudsman as the source of the tweets had nothing to do with the “Joe Mayo” account.

The police officer behind the offensive tweets is Durham Region Police Detective and he will be charged under the disciplinary provisions of the Police Services Act.

The accused officer was on annual leave and had no idea the Twitter account even existed, and investigators found it had been opened by a fellow police officer without his knowledge or consent, Martin said.

Durham Police Chief Mike Ewles said Monday he is deeply concerned about a number of issues related to the incident.

It’s “troubling to me that a high-ranking public official like the ombudsman of Ontario would rush to judgment and identify any person, without the benefit of some sort of objective investigation and evidence,” Ewles said.

The officer identified by Marin “is an outstanding police officer who has had his personal and professional life turned upside down for no reason,” he said.

Ewles also said he’s concerned that one of his officers allegedly used a fellow officer’s information to create a fictitious Twitter account and then use it for “such offensive purposes.”

“That officer will be held to account,” he said.

Ewles remains concerned about “the utilization of social media and the credibility that people are putting into when people can create fictitious accounts with false identities — and then make pretty bald statements that people are accepting, including the Ombudsman, accepted at face value. That’s very troubling to me.”

A Durham Regional Police Detective who will not be named until his Police Services Act hearing remains on duty but has been removed from his current assignment, police said.

A hearing date will be set for the Durham Detective to face disciplinary charges.

“With very few rules and even less accountability in the world of social media, it’s not the first time someone has landed in hot water,” Ewles said.

“Politicians and celebrities are usually the culprits. This is a first for us here at the DRPS.”

With files from The Canadian Press