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Police and Ontario ombudsman André Marin tangled in Twitter dispute

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin announces that he will be launching an investigation into what direction is provided to police by Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with respect to de-escalating conflict situations during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, August 8, 2013.

matthew sherwood The Globe and Mail

The Durham Regional Police wants the Ontario ombudsman to help restore the reputation of an officer whom he falsely accused of sending inappropriate messages to him over Twitter.

On Aug. 8, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin received tweets from an account identified as "Joe Mayo" before a news conference he was holding on the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by Toronto police.

Mr. Marin said the Twitter user told him that he was a "carded member of Al Qaida" and not to stick his nose in "business it doesn't belong."

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While the Twitter account was deleted, Mr. Marin publicly identified the tweeter as Durham regional police officer "Dennis Scott" and later clarified the name as "Scott Dennis," also disclosing the constable's salary. Several media outlets reported Constable Dennis' name.

Durham police said on Monday that an internal investigation determined that the officer identified by the ombudsman had nothing to do with the Twitter account. Durham police Chief Mike Ewles said the officer was on annual leave and had no idea the account existed.

An investigation by the force's Professional Standards Unit concluded that the tweets were coming from a Twitter account set up by a detective with the force. That detective, who has not been identified, faces discipline charges under the Police Services Act. The police force said he remains on duty but has been removed from his current assignment.

Chief Ewles said Mr. Marin's accusations against Constable Dennis, including releasing his name and salary, troubled him.

"First and foremost, the ombudsman is a public official whose job it is to be objective and conduct objective, independent investigation of whatever matters he's in charge with, acting on the evidence before him," he said, adding that Mr. Marin did not conduct due diligence.

Chief Ewles said that while he hopes the ombudsman will make a statement exonerating the constable, he added that he thinks Mr. Marin has done "a significant amount of damage" to Constable Dennis' reputation.

"Quite honestly, once it's out ... it's out. You can't un-ring that bell."

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Mr. Marin released a statement late Monday afternoon saying he understands that both he and the constable were victims in the Twitter attacks. He did not directly apologize to Constable Dennis.

"Regrettably, it appears that a Durham police officer not only personally attacked public officials on Twitter, but impersonated a colleague in doing so – hiding behind the name and badge number of Det.-Const. Scott Dennis. Both Det.-Const. Dennis and I were duped by this disgraceful, malicious act," the statement read.

He added: "I commend Durham police for taking this matter so seriously, and I will follow further developments in the case with interest."

Mr. Marin became Ombudsman of Ontario in 2005 and was appointed to a second five-year term in 2010. According to the ombudsman's website, the office oversees and investigates the provincial government, including about 500 provincial ministries, Crown corporations, tribunals, agencies, boards and commissions.

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About the Author
News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More


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