Toronto officers ‘struck back’ with bribery crackdown: police

Two-year, $120-million operation resulted in 51 arrests, conviction of two men for $1.1-million in bribes, 15 federal indictments and obstruction of justice convictions for at least three police officers.

Toronto police told the Globe and Mail Monday that they would issue a news release containing details about the sweeping investigation into alleged bribery, extortion and intimidation of tow truck operators in the Greater Toronto Area.

“In a demonstration of our strength, we have struck back,” police Insp. Maureen Welch said in a news release sent out later Monday.

“By working together, we can fight crime and promote safety in Toronto’s core. We are committed to doing the best work of our professional lives. This is our community’s police service. Our team responds to reports from Torontonians and partners in safe and efficient ways.”

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Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said in the same release: “This is not just about breaking down walls but closing the cracks.”

“The citizens of Toronto trust the Toronto police service to act as their first responders and to work with and assist with them,” Saunders said. “Today our officers and their support from other members of the police service stood tall, showed resolve and answered the call from the public.”

One witness saw a photo of one of the officers with a wedding ring on as they arrested him. It was not clear if he was still wearing the ring in the picture.

Peter Stirba, a 29-year-old from Ajax, Ontario, who owns a now-closed tow company that served GTA communities including Mississauga, Brampton and the Durham region, alleged in a police statement that “tow truck drivers were routinely extorted and made to pay bribes in exchange for access to city property for tow operations”.

Stirba named a group of six police officers including: Barry Glover, now retired; Dan Richmond, still active but part of a three-officer disciplinary review board; David Howie, recently retired; two current police officers; and former officer Guy Grehan. The police chief’s complete disclosure of the list left one of the officers unnamed.

Grehan’s lawyer told the Guardian that his client was not in the picture described by Stirba but insisted he is cooperating with police. “He has not been named, as far as I know,” Paul Masson said. “He has only been named by allegations, and my client has provided co-operation throughout this investigation.”

A police statement said Grehan was a police officer for approximately 13 years, with more than 3,000 arrest during that time. “During this period, he undertook over 150 tow operations in the GTA. During his assignment, he regularly and repeatedly interacted with local tow truck operators,” the statement said.

It is illegal for police officers to interact with members of the public unless “at a minimum, it is in a public place” or “on duty in a position of authority”. Officers can “commit acts of improper conduct only if the acts are in furtherance of their duties as required by law”.

Masson said that he would continue to “provide his co-operation to the investigations already commenced by the Toronto police service”, but offered no further comment.

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