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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Former chief now a constable

UPDATE: November 8, 2007, Chatham Daily News: Former chief now a constable - Two days after he was convicted of assault in a Chatham courtroom, a Chatham-Kent police sergeant has been demoted. Ed MacLean joins the rank and file as a first-class constable for six months after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to additional charges under the Police Services Act. That's on top of receiving a year of probation and 75 hours of community service in criminal court Monday. MacLean was chief of Dresden police until the creation of a single police service for Chatham-Kent in 1998.

November 6, 2007, Emily Page, London Free Press - Ontario police officer sentenced for taser abuse - A Chatham police veteran will serve 75 hours of community service and a year's probation for assault after zapping a handcuffed prisoner with a stun gun. Sgt. Edmund MacLean, 58, expressed deep regret before his sentencing yesterday. "Not a day goes by that I don't think about it," said the 30-year Chatham-Kent police veteran, adding it's taken a personal and professional toll. "It has affected both my lives and for that I am sorry," he said.

Judge John Menzie said there was no reason for the victim to be subdued with the taser MacLean used. "He was vulnerable, he was handcuffed, he was intoxicated," the judge said. "There was nothing to suggest he was resisting (the officer)."

Tasers, pistol-shaped guns that use two barbed darts to deliver a jolt of as much as 50,000 volts, have often come under criticism since police began using them to subdue unruly or dangerous people. Last month, Ontario's civilian police watchdog agency was called in to investigate after a taser incident involving London police in which a man -- high on cocaine at the time -- suffered a heart attack.

The assault by MacLean, who pleaded guilty, was captured on video at the police station in Chatham and played in court.

On July 6, 2006, he escorted a prisoner arrested for public intoxication into the booking area of the police station and told him to sit on a bench. The man was asked to stand for a body search, when MacLean put him in a headlock, pulling him backward and pulling his hair. Asked to remove his boots, the prisoner refused and was led to the booking desk in a so-called "armbar" chokehold. MacLean, the judge was told, reached over the desk and tried to apply the taser to the man's shoulder blade and made contact with his torso. Handcuffed throughout, the man was then led to the cell area where MacLean slapped him on the side of the head.

MacLean's lawyer, Glen Donald, said the behaviour was "out of character" for MacLean who was under personal stress at the time. Donald said MacLean had armed himself with a taser that night based on police dispatch information that the man was kicking and spitting while in a police cruiser. "Spitting was a particular concern for him," he said, citing the risk of "the spread of communicable diseases." He said "there is no lawful excuse" for the officer's actions, but noted that while a taser yields "a mighty wallop," the victim wasn't injured. He requested a conditional discharge.

Crown attorney David Foulds said that while the prisoner may have been acting out while taken to the station, at no time was he "physically acting out" while in custody. "What sort of example does this sort of behaviour set?" he said, adding the assault took place in front of fellow officers. Foulds requested a fine of between $1,000 and $1,500. "This court has to deliver a strong message about this sort of conduct," he said. Menzie said he agreed the assault was avoidable. "I can hardly classify this as a momentary lapse." MacLean still faces an internal police discipline hearing. The penalty for misconduct ranges as high as dismissal.

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