PSA HEARING CONTINUES FOR OFFICERS INVOLVED IN DEBUNGEE DEATH INVESTIGATION
June 2, 2022
The Police Services Act proceedings (“PSA Hearing”) against Staff Sergeant Harrison and Detective Whipple, who were involved in the shoddy investigation into the death of Stacy DeBungee, began on May 30, 2022 in Thunder Bay, ON. Staff Sergeant Harrison and Detective Whipple were both members of the Thunder Bay Police Service at the time.
The PSA Hearing represents seven years of advocacy efforts and seven years since the body of Stacy DeBungee was found in the McIntyre River on the morning of October 15, 2015.
Staff Sergeant Shawn Harrison and Detective Shawn Whipple are both facing charges of neglect of duty and discreditable conduct. On the first day of the hearing, Staff Sergeant Harrison pleaded guilty to the charge of neglect of duty. Both officers have pleaded not guilty to the discreditable conduct charge.
Asha James of Falconers LLP, counsel representing Stacy DeBungee’s brother, Brad DeBungee, and Rainy River First Nations, stated the following in a recent CBC interview:
“Police services are not allowed to provide one type of justice for Indigenous victims, and another type of justice for non-Indigenous victims.”
When Stacy DeBungee was found deceased, the Thunder Bay Police Service issued a statement deeming his death was “non-suspicious” despite it only being released a few hours after his body was found. Then Chief of the Rainy River First Nation, Jim Leonard, said he was contacted by Stacy’s brother, Brad DeBungee, following the release of the statement and it resulted in both submitting complaints to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (“OIPRD”) which receives, manages, and oversees all complaints about police in Ontario.
Mr. Leonard stated the following while giving his evidence on May 31st, 2022:
“One community member said to me we take better care of our dogs than the Thunder Bay Police take care of Stacy… There was a lot of discussion regarding this. I’m not an expert, but a lot of my community members were questioning me on why things were happening the way they were happening.
That decision was made in a matter of a few hours… In our minds, the autopsy wasn’t done, how could that decision be made that quickly? And questions the family had were not getting any answers.”
In addition to hearing testimony on May 30th and May 31st, 2022, the Tribunal also visited the McIntyre River on May 31st, where Stacy DeBungee’s body was found. The hearing will continue on Monday June 6, 2022 at 10am.
Proceedings will continue to be live streamed on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/user/ThunderBayPolice/live
Related Media Coverage:
“Police Service Act hearing against two officers in DeBungee case adjourned to Monday” – TB NewsWatch (Doug Diaczuk) – June 2, 2022
“Brad DeBungee testifies he felt police ‘brushed off’ questions about Stacy’s death” – TB NewsWatch (Doug Diaczuk) – June 1, 2022
“Former Rainy River Chief said DeBungee case was ‘gut-wrenching’ for family, community” – TB NewsWatch (Doug Diaczuk) – May 31, 2022
“Police Services Act hearing against two TBPS investigators in DeBungee sudden death opens” – TB NewsWatch – May 31, 2022
“Report on racism in Thunder Bay Police Service to be considered a ‘thought’ piece not fact in hearing of TBPS officers” – Windspeaker.com (Shari Narine) – May 31, 2022
“Hearing underway for Thunder Bay, Ont., police accused in flawed investigation of First Nations man’s death” – CBC News (Logan Turner) – May 30, 2022
“Disciplinary hearing begins for two police officers over 2015 case that exposed department problems” – The Globe and Mail (Willow Fiddler) – May 30, 2022
“Business as usual: Thunder Bay police and the damage done” – APTN News (Dennis Ward, Cullen Crozier, Kenneth Jackson) – May 27, 2022
“Police misconduct hearings set to begin in DeBungee death investigation” – TB NewsWatch (Ian Kaufman) – May 27, 2022
Related Posts on Adjudicator Lee Ferrier’s Decision and Related Hearing:
https://falconers.ca/public-proceeding-of-the-thunder-bay-police-services-board-will-determine-whether-officers-involved-in-the-investigation-into-the-death-of-stacy-debungee-will-face-disciplinary-proceedings/ (February 5, 2021)
Related Posts on the OIPRD Complaints and Findings (Individual Conduct and Systemic):
https://falconers.ca/casestudy/stacy-debungee/ (June 20, 2016)
Related Posts on the Fight Against a Secret Hearings:
https://falconers.ca/disciplinary-hearing-stacy-debungee-death-investigation-cancelled-thunder-bay-police-board-tbpb/ (April 6, 2018)
https://falconers.ca/superior-court-judge-halts-secret-hearing/ (October 4, 2018)