By TOM GODFREY
A Vaughan couple, both of whom are constables with York Regional Police, have filed a $15 million lawsuit against the force, its Chief, board and seven senior officers over allegations of neglect of duty and bias in a racially-charged case.
Const. Dameian Muirhead, 33, and his wife, Chantal, 32, who are originally from Jamaica, have been officers on the force for a total of 20 years. They claim their lives were shattered in what their lawyer calls a case of “reverse racial profiling”.
The couple has filed a Statement of Claim in Ontario Superior Court of Justice that names as Defendants the force, its board, Chief Eric Jolliffe, two deputy chiefs and five top officers. It seeks $10 million in aggravated and special damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
Both officers continue to be on active duty as the case proceeds through the courts. It is expected to be assigned a judge later this year.
“It has been a very stressful time for us,” Muirhead told Share in an interview. “I believe we are innocent and didn’t do anything wrong and we will continue to fight.”
The former Traffic Unit officer was awarded a Madiba Award for outstanding work in the community in a Black History Month celebration in Ajax last week.
“I believe I was targeted by the force,” Muirhead said. “I believe if it was a White officer, he would have received an award for professionalism.”
He said his wife was included in the lawsuit because she also suffers from stress and may have been targeted by the force.
Muirhead’s problem with the force began after he and his partner responded to a call to investigate an Aurora bush party in 2011 during which someone called out: “I would love to see that guy hanging from a tree,” referring to the Black officer.
Muirhead said he was yelled at and taunted by drunken men hurling racial slurs. One of the men at the party filed a complaint against him which led to the laying of Police Services Act charges against him. Muirhead was accused of insubordination, discreditable conduct and neglect of duty for not investigating the racial taunts against him during the drunken bush party.
Those charges were withdrawn by the force in January this year.
The lawsuit alleges the investigation that led to charges against him was botched since investigators did not question other witnesses and cleared his partner by email without an interview.
The couple alleged the investigating officer conducted a “malicious investigation” that was focused on supporting the charges against Muirhead.
They accused the officer of failing to be objective and overlooking evidence that showed Muirhead acting in a professional manner.
“The defendant during his testimony at the Police Services Act hearing called the Plaintiff (Muirhead) a racist on two separate occasions without providing any justification or evidence,” the Statement of Claim alleges.
It claimed members of a police Discipline Review Committee (DRC) should have known that pursuing charges against Muirhead would “re-victimize” him by “re-enforcing and affirming the blatant racist discrimination he faced in the incident”.
The couple claimed DRC members had an obligation to withdraw the charges once they became aware of the “negligent and malicious investigation through hearings and evidence presented at the tribunal”.
They alleged actions by “the Defendants have cause them humiliation and embarrassment accompanied by feelings of insecurity and anxiety”.
According to the lawsuit, the Muirheads suffered from shattered faith, disbelief, disgust and anger that led to them suffering from sleeplessness, headaches, anguish and physical ailments to which they sought medical treatment.
The hearing was told that Muirhead has been called the N-word twice on the job and that the lynching comment was just one more attack.
Muirhead’s lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa called the case “an elephant in the room”.
“This is a case of reverse racial profiling by police,” Hamalengwa said. “These charges would not have been laid if it he was a White officer.”
Lawyers for the Defendants in a Statement of Defence filed in January this year strongly denied allegations made by the Muirheads, who they claimed are not entitled to compensation.
The force is seeking to have the suit dismissed by the court due to “the unfounded nature of the allegations” and is asking for court costs and damages.