A York Regional police officer who was charged in 2015 with extortion and obstruction of justice says he feels “vindicated” after the province’s police watchdog concluded that he was wrongfully arrested and the victim of a biased investigation by Peel Regional police.
Sgt. Gurdip Panaich told CityNews on Tuesday that his entire family suffered as a result of his arrest and a subsequent Peel Regional police media release that connected him to extortion and gun charges, “tarnishing” his reputation.
“It was a big stress even for my kids at school,” he explained. “They were taunted, my wife suffered taunts on social media …I was suspended from my job, it affected all aspects of my life badly.”
All charges against Panaich, and a co-accused civilian, were withdrawn by the Crown a few months later.
But Panaich said his reputation was still badly damaged and he approached the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) looking to clear his name and hold Peel police responsible.
“I think the public needs to know that I did nothing wrong and I was falsely accused,” he explained.
“I requested a review from Peel police,” he added. “They dropped my charges after the review but nobody came to me and apologized or said ‘we made a mistake,’ so I had to go to the OIPRD and it’s a big relief because they have clearly stated that (I was falsely arrested), the investigation was biased, and the news that was released was fabricated.”
In a lengthy report released on November 3, 2017, the OIPRD said it found evidence of alleged misconduct by Peel Detective Robert Crane under the Police Services Act.
The OIPRD found that Crane “did not have reasonable grounds to arrest Panaich and another man, that Crane’s investigation was biased, and that he fabricated a media release.
Panaich says he still doesn’t know why he was targeted.
“I still haven’t got that answer,” he said. “Even though the OIPRD said the investigation was biased. Why was he biased? I never knew him. I had no grudges against him, no animosity, I don’t know why he picked me to hang me out to dry. I have no idea.”
Despite the OIPRD’s findings and recommendations, Crane has not been charged under the Police Services Act. Panaich says that’s because the case has dragged on too long.
“Whenever it takes longer than six months for an investigation to take place the Police Services Board has to approve the charges. I believe that’s what Peel police are reviewing.”
Peel police would only tell CityNews on Tuesday that they are reviewing the OIPRD report: “Det. Crane has not been formally charged under the Police Services Act. We have received the report provided by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and it is currently under review. Once the review is complete, Peel Regional Police will proceed as directed.”
The initial charges against Panaich stemmed from complaints by a Brampton real estate agent who said he was the victim of an online smear campaign.
The agent, Dale Mundi, later alleged that he and his wife were asked to pay a large sum of money to have the online posts removed.
Now that Panaich has been cleared he says his life is slowly returning to normal, but he’s still part of a lawsuit seeking $1-million in damages from the Peel Regional Police Board for negligent investigation.
“It is still before the courts,” he said. “Our lawyers are looking into it.”
“They really tarnished my reputation in the community.”
Peel police said it couldn’t comment on the lawsuit as it is currently before the courts.