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Systemic failures have allowed a criminal to escape justice

March 2022

Crime Stoppers is an organization that helps people to provide anonymous information regarding crimes and criminal activity. They boast that they do not trace the source of the information, allowing witnesses to provide information to police without fear of retribution from the criminals on whom they are informing.

Although Crime Stoppers does good work in the community, assisting police in solving crimes that might otherwise go unsolved, they were the vehicle that allowed a criminal to commit a crime against me with impunity. 

Back in December 2019, I was the subject of a Section 117 Public Safety Warrant, and had my legally owned hunting rifles seized, based solely on anonymous accusations made through Crime Stoppers.  It was alleged that on numerous occasions during November 2019, I was observed in a manic state through the front window of my house, waving my rifles around and yelling loudly, clad in only my underwear or sometimes completely naked, threatening to “get even” with some people with whom I used to work.  The anonymous complainant tried to pass themselves off as one of my neighbours.

Despite being in an age where most people have cell phones glued to their hands, equipped with the ability to take high-quality photos and videos, there were no photos, videos or audio recordings.

There wasn’t even a 9-11 call, which is something that might be expected when a person in an apparent manic and violent state is observed waving rifles around and threatening to “get even” with people.  There were also no witnesses willing to come to court and be subject to cross-examination. 

I know why there were none of the above.  Those accusations against me were completely false; not just kind of false, nor an exaggeration of the truth, but completely false.  It’s very disturbing that someone could make such accusations, with nothing to support those accusations, and successfully get police action, leading to court proceedings.

I’m a retired police officer who suffers from PTSD.  I’m also a recovering alcoholic with six-years sobriety as of 4 March 2022, things that I’ve been very open about the past several years (PTSD and alcoholism), and the criminal who made this complaint against me obviously thought they could use these facts against me.  I’ve never been known as a violent person, even when I was drunk, and quite frankly, the allegations were quite over-the-top in their description of my alleged behaviour.

Fortunately, I had alibi evidence that refuted all of the allegations.  On four occasions, I wasn’t even at home on the alleged dates and times, along with having witnesses willing to testify that on the dates that I actually was home, they were with me and nothing of the sort happened.  The Crown Attourney saw fit to withdraw this application in April 2021 and return my rifles to me, but not until I’d spent almost $9000 hiring a lawyer. 

What if I didn’t have any alibi evidence? What if I’d been home, alone and without any witnesses to back up my side, on all the dates that I was alleged to be misbehaving in such a potentially violent manner? Would that have been enough for the Crown to prevail? For a Crown to successfully uphold a Section 117 Public Safety Warrant, the burden of proof requires only a “balance of probabilities,” unlike with criminal code and provincial offences act charges, which have a burden of proof of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A Section 117 Public Safety Warrant doesn’t come with any charges, but if undisputed or otherwise upheld by a court, the result is the firearms owner permanently loses possession of their firearms and usually gets a firearms prohibition of a specific period, along with any repercussions that come with having been issued a weapons prohibition.

From my own investigation, I zeroed in on a particular suspect responsible for making these false complaints, that being former friend and former co-worker Sergeant Mark McComb of West Grey Police.  Unfortunately, I only had circumstantial evidence linking McComb to this stunt, so I filed a formal complaint with Barrie Police, hoping that their investigation could uncover more substantial evidence.  Sergeant Kevin Scales of Barrie Police did conduct quite an extensive investigation, which included interviewing a potential witness, but this witness didn’t provide any actionable information. 

McComb, on the other hand, refused to be interviewed by Sergeant Scales.  Although no one who is accused and/or charged with an offence has any obligation to answer questions, I can speak from personal experience that when I was accused of something that I did not do, I couldn’t wait to prove to the police and the court that the allegations were false.  Now, this certainly doesn’t prove that McComb is responsible, and I can’t say that he is indeed responsible, but it certainly does nothing to indicate that my suspicions about him are wrong either. If you have nothing to hide, why not consent to an interview, even if it’s only to say that you had nothing to do with making the false allegations – Period – end of interview.

I also attempted to get the West Grey Police Services Board (WGPSB) to conduct their own internal investigation into McComb, in the hope that they might be able to assist Sergeant Scales’ investigation and either confirm or refute my suspicions regarding McComb, but the Chair of the WGPSB failed to respond to my request, which I can only interpret as a refusal to investigate.  I expressed to them that if McComb really had nothing to do with these false allegations against me, that I wouldn’t waste any more time investigating him, and any assistance they could provide might help.

I then filed complaints with both the Office of the Independent Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission in hopes that they might be able to force the WGPSB and/or West Grey Police Chief Rob Martin to conduct an investigation, but I was unsuccessful.

I understand that for Crime Stoppers to be successful, anonymity of the tipsters is essential.  However, this essential component has allowed someone to commit a criminal offence against me, that being Public Mischief.  I also understand that Crime Stoppers is not an investigative agency, and that it simply passes on information to police, who are supposed to investigate and determine if they can act upon the information. 

Unfortunately for me, Sergeant Richard Wentzell of Barrie Police didn’t fully investigate the anonymous complaint before obtaining a warrant to seize my firearms.  Wentzell only conducted an investigation, a half-assed investigation at that, after I lodged a complaint against his conduct towards me.  The result was that Wentzell determined there was nothing to support the seizure of my rifles.  My neighbours were interviewed, after the fact I might add, and besides the fact that none of them admitted to being the anonymous source, none of them had anything bad to say about me.  

I also understand that the issue of firearms is a hot-button issue (from the Nova Scotia shooter to École Polytechnique), but there was apparently no rush to seize my firearms.  The first anonymous complaint was made on 2 November 2019 and the last anonymous complaint (before the seizure, as there were two others after) was on 24 November 2019.  The Section 177 Public Safety Warrant was sworn on 12 December 2019, but it wasn’t executed until 17 December 2019.  If I was such a potential danger, a “bomb ready to explode,” why such an extended delay in seizing my rifles? Why was there no attempt to have me apprehended under the Mental Health Act for being a danger to myself or others?

Sergeant Scales contacted Crime Stoppers during his investigation and was advised that there is no way to trace anonymous complaints. Apparently, the tips were provided using an anonymous phone application. 

I appreciate the hard work that Sergeant Scales did to try to positively identify the criminal who pulled off this disgraceful stunt against me.  He did a great job with what little he had to work with, but ironically, as I mentioned above, the essential component that makes Crime Stoppers so successful was also one of the things that made it impossible for Sergeant Scales to substantiate my suspicions against my prime suspect, or for that matter, assist in identifying anyone else as the perpetrator.  I wanted this perpetrator to face Public Mischief charges, along with a lawsuit to recover my legal costs, but it looks like none of this will happen. 

I would appreciate safeguards being put in place to prevent something like this from happening to anyone else. I know that many would disagree with me that being able to track the tipsters in any way would negate the whole purpose of Crime Stoppers, but some sort of middle ground could effectively discourage informants from providing information they know to be false, just to cause grief for someone. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that I’m not the first one to face false allegations through Crime Stoppers.

These false allegations caused me a lot of grief, and Crime Stoppers helped facilitate that. How is that justice?


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About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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