Ottawa police officers have pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act for unlawfully searching an arrested man’s cellphone for video he shot of them, deleting the video, then turning the camera onto the detained man before subsequently deleting that video, too.
Constables Salomon Gutierrez and Benjamin Ham each pleaded guilty to one count of discreditable conduct after an arrest of an intoxicated man led to two illegal searches of his cellphone for reasons not related to the investigation.
Gutierrez and Ham responded to a call 5 from a drunk man who said he had been beaten up by multiple people. The man complained that police weren’t adequately investigating his alleged assault. Officers discovered that his friend had two drivers’ licenses on him and when they moved to seize one, the original complainant began using his cellphone to film police. Officers repeatedly asked the man to stop shining the bright cellphone light in their eyes, but he refused. Gutierrez and Ham proceeded to arrest the man for public intoxication. Gutierrez, however, grabbed the man’s cellphone from on top of the police cruiser and deleted the video from the phone. The officer told internal investigators that he deleted the video because he didn’t want footage of him uploaded to YouTube out of concerns for his safety but then later told investigators that he realized it was unlawful.
Ham then took the phone and used it to film the arrested man to offer the man a taste of what the officers were experiencing, but then subsequently deleted that video as well.
Internal investigators did not find that there was any officer wrongdoing during the arrest. Police prosecutor Insp. Michel Marin said it was “completely unacceptable” for the officers to have essentially conducted two illegal searches of the man’s phone. Marin also charged that the officers “taunted” the man by turning the camera on him while he was under arrest.
Ottawa Police Association representative Mike Lamothe told the hearing that the incident was a “learning experience.”