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Staff Sergeant files racism complaint against Sarnia Police

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Troy Shantz

Another Sarnia Police officer is off work and without pay over alleged mistreatment by fellow officers and police brass.

Staff Sergeant Paul Mamak, who has been off the job since February of 2020, says he was subjected to decades of racism and harassment while at work.

Mamak, a person of colour, details the allegations in documents sent to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, a provincial body with the authority to investigate police chiefs, deputy chiefs and police service boards.

When contacted, Mamak would not comment directly on the content but confirmed he wrote and submitted the complaint to the Commission earlier this year.

A spokesperson said City Hall refutes the allegations and told The Journal an independent investigation had concluded his complaints were unsubstantiated.

Mamak is the second Sarnia Police officer refusing to work until the Sarnia Police Services Board and administration address issues at the Christina Street headquarters.

Staff Sergeant McCabe-Wyville alleged she was assaulted in the gym at the Sarnia Police headquarters on Christina Street and subsequently harassed and bullied by the same higher-ranking officer.

Police said Friday that dispute has been resolved. The terms were not disclosed.

Mamak said he has been advised by his lawyer not to return to work for his own safety.

“I would love to go back to work, but I can’t,” he told The Journal.

Mamak told the OCPC that he – and other non-white officers – was subjected to systemic racism after joining the force 29 years ago.

The Sarnia native alleges he was the butt of jokes by colleagues who would adopt a mock Indian accent in his presence, calling him the “brown guy” and other derogatory racial terms about East Indians, asking “How’s the Paki doing?” and “Does he smell like Currie?”

Mamak claims he was overlooked for promotion repeatedly because of his race, and accuses current and former senior administrators of supporting the discrimination.

Mamak said he filed grievances with each promotion he applied for because he believed it necessary to be treated equally.

“I wanted to be the best police officer I could be and worked diligently,” he stated in a cover letter. “But it was disheartening working in that kind of environment and there were times that I just wanted to give up and quit, but that is not who I was and I refused to give in.”

In 2019 Mamak filed a harassment complaint against a senior officer, and requested the Police Services Board hire a third-party investigator.

Sarnia Police asked London Police to investigate. According to Mamak, Sarnia Chief Norm Hansen and Deputy Chief Owen Lockhart later informed him London Police did not substantiate his claims. He said the senior officers showed him one paragraph from the report but refused to provide the entire document to Mamak or the Sarnia Police Association, the union representing officers.

Mamak said he declined an offer of mediation, and was offered a lump sum of money and retroactive pay if he withdrew his complaint and retired.

David Logan, Sarnia’s general manager of corporate services, provided a written statement when asked for comment.

“We deny and refute these allegations, and adamantly state that Staff Sergeant Mamak was not subject to any adverse comment or conduct because of his race,” he said.

“Further, I can advise that the London Police Services investigation, which was conducted in March and April, 2019, in response to an allegation of workplace harassment, concluded his complaints were unsubstantiated.

Logan said because the matter is currently in litigation it would be inappropriate for himself, the Police Chief or Sarnia Police Services Board to make any further comment.

“I would add,” he said, “that it is disappointing that an individual has released this level of detail with respect to the allegations that are part of a preliminary review before the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, as the Commission specifically requests that the parties do not communicate anything publicly, to protect the integrity of the review.

 

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