Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lead-footed OPP constable remains on duty

By Trevor Wilhelm, The Windsor Star

The OPP officer who ran a stop sign and crashed his police cruiser — while allegedly doing nearly double the speed limit — remains on duty and could even return to the road helping catch speeders.

Const. Kristopher Gagnier, 26, an Essex County officer for three years, was charged with street racing after crashing his marked cruiser into a Kingsville ditch.

When Gagnier ran the stop sign at a T-intersection on Graham Side Road, he was allegedly going 157 km/h in an 80 km/h zone. He was on duty at the time of the high-speed crash, but not responding to a call.

The Highway Traffic Act dictates that the OPP cruiser he was driving will be impounded for seven days. Gagnier’s driver’s licence was also suspended for seven days. But that doesn’t necessarily bar him from patrolling the roads.

“He just can’t drive for seven days,” said Sgt. David Rektor with the OPP western region headquarters.

“There are other options available to members. They can be the second officer in the vehicle and assist that way. But driving is out of the question for the seven-day period.”

Police said the single vehicle crash happened around 9:30 p.m. Thursday when Gagnier, on routine patrol, failed to stop at the intersection of Graham Side Road and Road 7.

Rektor said he didn’t know what the cost of damage was to the car, but added there was “extensive front end damage.” He also didn’t know if the officer will have to pay for the repairs or if taxpayers will be on the hook.

More than 15,000 drivers have been charged with street racing since the law was introduced in 2007.

Rektor said Gagnier is the first Essex officer to be charged, but several other OPP officers elsewhere in the province have been charged while on duty.

Gagnier’s first appearance in provincial court is scheduled for Jan. 4. Rektor said Monday it was too soon to know if there will be a separate investigation under the Police Services Act, a provincial act governing the conduct of police officers.

“We have to abide by the same laws, rules and regulations that a citizen would,” said Rektor. “However, we’re also subject to considerations under the Police Services Act.”

“We’ve got high standards of conduct and professionalism that we expect from our officers in order that we can honour the public trust we’re given. That’s why the Police Services Act is there. It offers the ability to ensure our people are holding up their responsibilities.”

Rektor said it’s not acceptable for an officer to shirk those responsibilities.

“The OPP holds our members accountable for their actions,” he said. “Public trust and confidence is the cornerstone of what we do. Without it, we’re lost. When you accept this position of trust, you accept a lot of responsibility. You have to know that people expect you to lead by example. That’s the message our commissioner, right from the onset of this, has made clear. The OPP will lead by example and be held accountable.” or 519-255-6850

Source: Windsor Star

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