Police still investigating agent donations to Freedom Convoy fundraiser

Ontario police say they will continue to investigate members who donate to the Freedom Convoy six months after their commitment.

In March, CBC News linked at least two dozen current and former members of police forces in the county to a publicly leaked list of names identified as apparent donors to crowdfunding site GiveSendGo.

That site was used to support the Freedom Convoy, the week-long occupation of downtown Ottawa by vaccine-mandated protesters in February.

At the time, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he was concerned about the prospect of police members donating to the Freedom Convoy, but said it was not his place to investigate.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Ottawa Police Department (OPS) announced internal investigations into the matter, but neither would reveal how many members were involved or commit to making the results of an assessment public.

Six months later, the OPP and OPS confirm that their investigations are still incomplete.

I don’t think people will be particularly alarmed when they find out that there will be a certain number of police officers who have made inappropriate donations.– Michael Kempa, University of Ottawa

“An internal chief complaint investigation into this matter has been opened and it remains under investigation. The OPS will not be able to comment until the investigation is complete,” the OPS said in a statement.

The conclusion of the OPP investigation would close in June, but according to a spokesperson, it is also still ongoing.

Police overloaded, little supervision of supervisory board

University of Ottawa Criminology Prof. Michael Kempa said that while researching individual officers is not technically difficult, in the context of the police workload after the convoy, the officers are “overloaded” and under public pressure to deliver results. on a number of investigations into the Freedom Convoy, including hate speech, allegations of violence and intimidation.

count. Eli El-Chattiry, chairman of the Ottawa Police Services Board, speaks at City Hall as interim chief Steve Bell looks on on May 12, 2022. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

He said the police oversight committee – the Ottawa Police Services Board – has been a “silent concierge” and left the police to prioritize.

“You need an active and publicly visible oversight body that will help justify the police and get the police to focus on certain areas after the convoy protests,” Kempa said.

Eli El-Chantiry, the chairman of the board, declined to comment.

No surprise that some police supported protests

Kempa said police forces are a reflection of Canadian society, and about 30 to 50 percent of Canadians surveyed were empathetic to at least some of the Freedom Convoy’s goals.

“Canadians are aware that a huge percentage of Canadians were very sympathetic to the objectives of or some of the objectives of the convoy,” he said.

The police can donate to any political cause they want, provided they are not criminal in nature.– Michael Kempa, University of Ottawa

“I don’t think people will be particularly alarmed if they find out that there will be a certain number of police officers who made inappropriate donations after the emergency declaration.”

It is unclear what legal or disciplinary consequences – if any – police officers could face for donating money.

Donations to the protesters were made through the site from Feb. 2, the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the protest “became illegal”.

Shortly thereafter, the governments of the city of Ottawa and Ontario declared separate states of emergency, freezing access to all funds raised on the platform for what was then termed an “illegal occupation” by Prime Minister Doug Ford.

Kempa said the timing of any donations by police officers will be important in determining whether or not they should be punished.

“The police can donate to any political cause they want, provided they are not criminal in nature,” he said. “The real concern is, where did the donations come from after the protest was declared illegal?”

Any donations made after the protests were clearly deemed illegal would be “tricky,” Kempa said.

“It would be a blatant problem for the police action to make donations after the Prime Minister’s declaration of a national emergency on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14,” he said.

Police must identify members associated with extremist groups

Kempa said police forces should become more serious about investigating members and identifying ties or sympathies with extremist political groups.

“Not because we expect large numbers, but there is enough that it is a problem. And it would be in the interest of police organizations to identify these problems in their midst,” he said.

“If we know a little bit more about it, we can actually design a strategy for dealing with it.”

A screenshot taken on the night of the hacked GiveSendGo crowdfunding site. A link on the hacked page took people to a site with data on people using the site to donate money to the organizers of the convoy protests. (Screenshot/GiveSendGo.com)

CBC refers to police names

After comparing the names of donors living in Ontario with publicly available police officer payrolls, CBC found about 60 people with possible law enforcement connections based on information they provided to GiveSendGo.

CBC then referenced the information with other publicly available sources such as zip codes, social media accounts, and archived news stories, and was able to match at least 26 donors with current and former police members — six with the Ottawa Police Department and 20 with the OPP. .

For some OPS officers, CBC was able to further confirm their names, and sometimes their donation amounts, with police sources.

CBC is not naming the officers because they have not been charged or disciplined and no one has agreed to be on the list. Their apparent contributions ranged from $50 to over $1,000 each, often accompanied by a comment.

“Lord, bless these truck drivers and God keep our country glorious and free!!” read a comment.

Repeated attempts to contact police officers who appear to have donated to GiveSendGo have largely failed. Only one retired Ottawa police officer told CBC that he donated $100.

In another case, an Ottawa police officer appeared to have donated $50 in her son’s name: “When I play hockey, I wish I could see my dad smile. Thank you for fighting for our freedom,” one section read. of the comment.

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