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High-ranking Toronto police officer helped officers cheat on exam due to isolation and mistreatment, lawyer says

The first female Black superintendent in Toronto Police Service history was in despair over what she believed was systemic mistreatment of Black officers and was attempting to diversify the ranks on her own when she helped six constables cheat in a promotions exam, her lawyer told a police tribunal Monday.

Supt. Stacy Clarke was “frustrated and desperate” at the slow pace of change in the service and believed her efforts to promote qualified Black candidates were falling on deaf ears, lawyer Joseph Markson said during the tribunal hearing that will ultimately determine her punishment within the organization.

“As the first Black female superintendent in the history of the Toronto Police Service, Supt. Clarke has been running uphill and against the wind for more than 26 years,” said lawyer Joseph Markson.

“In these unique and extraordinary circumstances, there is a straight line in connecting systemic discrimination in policing towards Blacks, Supt. Clarke’s lived experience, and the facts of misconduct to which she had pled guilty. She is extremely remorseful for her misconduct. However those acts of misconduct were rooted in real despair, real hurt and real pain.”

Clarke pleaded guilty last fall to seven counts of professional misconduct for her role in providing pictures of questions and answers to officers in the promotional process, which marred an otherwise unblemished career, the tribunal heard.

The misconduct could merit a dismissal, but Chief Myron Demkiw still believes “this officer still has work to do,” said the TPS representative at the hearing, lawyer Scott Hutchison.

“There’s good reason to question whether a senior officer who engaged in conduct like this has a realistic role in the service in the future. I want to be clear that’s not the penalty I’ll be asking you to consider,” said Hutchison, saying he does not object to evidence and witnesses that could shed light on what he called a “pernicious problem of anti-Black racism.”

He said the Service was seeking a demotion of two ranks to staff sergeant for a period of one year, and a return to the rank of inspector at the end of that year. Clarke would not be automatically re-promoted to her current rank.

Markson pitched a demotion to the role of inspector for one year and then automatic reinstatement to the rank of superintendent.

“A return to the rank of superintendent is in the best interests of the TPS and the diverse communities that it proudly serves,” said Markson.

The hearing was attended by about 60 supporters of Clarke.

Markson read into the record a statement by Clarke where she expressed her remorse for the misconduct and expressed a desire to put it into context. The statement said she experienced mistreatment personally, including hurtful comments.

“Going through this role as the only female Black officer was traumatic, painful and disorienting. I have been forever changed by what I had to endure through that time,” Clarke said.

“I’ve had to jump through hoops created just for me even though I worked to get my promotions. I’ve stood up when credentials of people of colour were undermined… I soon realized my efforts were having no impact. I was frustrated and desperate. I myself had benefitted from lobbying on my behalf in the past. However the differential treatment experience by the candidates I was mentoring was painful….A rising tide of emotions overwhelmed me. I decided that if the opportunity presented itself I would assist the candidates and make a desperate effort to level the playing field.”

Lawyers say that witnesses at the sentencing hearing will include former TPS Chief Mark Saunders. Clarke is also expected to testify in her own defense.

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