Peel police’s corruptness and irresponsibility were also on trial in a Brampton courtroom this week
On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds until he died by asphyxiation. Floyd had been arrested on “suspicion” of passing a counterfeit $20.
Less than a year later, a jury found Chauvin guilty on three counts, including Murder 2 and 3. On June 16, he will be sentenced by Judge Peter Cahill.
The judge won’t match the death sentence Chauvin imposed on his victim.
Chauvin did what he did in plain view, secure in the knowledge that as a 19-year veteran, he had the authority to mete out his twisted form of justice.
He was also buoyed by knowledge that officers are not subject to the same scrutiny under law as the rest of us. “Qualified immunity” frees them up from civil lawsuits for crimes committed after taking the oath and wearing the badge.
This piece of legal nicety is ladled out equally in the U.S. and Canada.
There’s clear evidence that Chauvin was not just a rogue officer, but also fits descriptions of his private life as a morally depraved individual.
The evidence that he is “off” was disallowed in trial because American jurisprudence doesn’t allow a jury to know he had a pattern of aberrant behaviour: witness accounts that as a nightclub bouncer he had a history of disturbing encounters with Black patrons; 18 complaints over the course of his policing career, only two “closed with discipline”, plus one incident that eerily paralleled his handling of Mr. Floyd – his knee on the neck of a 14-year-old-boy that lasted even longer than what happened with Floyd.
The most damning was the 9:29 video from the cellphone of 17-year-old bystander Darnella Frazier.
After Floyd’s death police issued a press release that said, "Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction."
No, it wasn’t a medical incident. It was murder.
The victim was handcuffed behind his back, laid stomach-first on the hard asphalt, with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
The Chauvin conviction received worldwide attention as another controversial case worked its way to a conclusion in the Peel Region court system.
On Monday morning at Brampton’s Davis Courthouse, another case of depravity ended with a stout sentence for 75-year-old ex-Peel policeman Frank Kohler. He was jailed for four years by Ontario court judge Richard LeDressay for the serial sexual abuse of Brampton schoolboy Kevin Dickman some fifty years ago.
It was, said the judge, an “unspeakable breach of trust”.
While the abuse delivered by Chauvin to Floyd in comparison to Kohler to Dickman was somewhat different (Chauvin – violent, short-lived, deadly; Kohler – sexual, violent, long-term, soul-destroying), the fundamentals of each case are similar: rogue officer, acting with arrogance and impunity, abuses victim, who eventually dies, while the abuser gets his comeuppance, with zero ramifications for the employers that hired them – the Minneapolis and Peel Region police departments.
In both cases, the employers were profoundly complicit in the abuse. The Minneapolis department had Chauvin’s record on file, but failed to flush him from their system. Meanwhile, three junior officers stood like stone statues as he practiced a sinister form of street-level crucifixion.
Peel Police had on record what Kohler had done to Dickman in 1974, the year the force was formed. Yet the investigator in the case, William Taggert, who would later become chief, let Kohler resign and flee to Nova Scotia, free and clear, and uncharged. Despite the serial abuse, Kohler’s confession, and heart-felt testimony from the victim (only 11 when the abuse started), Kohler was given a get-out-of-jail card by his seniors – our system of justice be damned.
Let that sink in. Imagine if you are parents of a young boy who had been abused for years by a pedophile, and his employer – the one taking an oath to serve and protect the public – allows him to walk free.
Legalists, social workers, sex-crime officers, and especially victims of abuse, are sure to recoil in horror.
Later on, the Dickman-Kohler-Taggert file disappeared, caused either by negligence or indifference… or intentional destruction of the evidence.
Frank Kohler, left, coached Kevin Dickman, right, in the '70s
Kohler told the Brampton court in late March, he followed up with Peel police in the late 1980s or early 90s, once again confessing, asking an inspector at 22 Division if he could be united with Dickman to make amends for his past. Again, the inspector said this was a bad idea, and advised him to flee justice a second time. Peel police insist they have no record of this request or the meeting at the Division.
Even during pre-sentencing submissions in late March, Kohler seemed mystified as to why no charges were brought against him years ago.
The Kohler case makes it abundantly clear that Peel police, since the first year in operation, put more importance behind the implications of some bad press by exposing the crimes of one its own, ahead of protecting a child. What about following rules, enforcing laws? Ever wonder why media reports – including well-documented features in The Pointer – show the force to be one of the most troubled in Canada. It seems deception began at inception, and flubbing the Dickman-Kohler investigation is now embedded in its DNA.
When Floyd died under Chauvin’s knee, the City of Minneapolis stepped up and agreed to pay $27 million (US) to settle a civil lawsuit with the George Floyd family. The force also made available its chief and top training officer to give evidence at the Chauvin trial. When the chief was asked if what Chauvin did was good policing, he said, no. When the training officer was asked if he followed procedure, the answer was, no. Both expressed their disgust, their shame, and apologized. Chauvin was an affront to policing, and humanity.
After Kohler’s sentencing, there was no ‘In Memoriam’ as an express of sympathy for the victim. No apology for mishandling the abuse investigation, or letting the child’s oppressor escape justice. No compensation to the Dickman family (there is a surviving sister). No reaching out to become a partner with ‘Friends of Kevin’, who sought to put a memorial stone on his pauper’s grave, or plant a tree in his honour at the park in Peel Village where he once played with childish abandon – until he met Kohler.
There seems to be no plans to respond to the crimes committed by one of the force’s alumni.
On Monday, after sentencing, The Pointer asked Peel police to comment on Kohler’s crimes – to answer for one of their own. We were sent a regurgitated release originally issued late last year in response to Kohler’s guilty pleas.
Chief Nishan Duraiappah expressed his compassion, the impact of Dickman’s suffering and how it impacted on his family. It didn’t include any recognition that the police were complicit. No information about what happened in the in-between years, between the abuse and Dickman’s death. Was there to be an inquiry into the case? Despite numerous pleadings from Dickman to court officials and police over the years that he had been sexually abused by a former Peel officer, he was ignored and left to die, slowly. Would there be an investigation into how, twice, Peel police ignored evidence that was dropped in their lap?
Were the criminal acts of the force, which obstructed justice, conveniently lost evidence and let a criminal walk free to possibly keep abusing children, part of the DNA that established Peel police’s troubling culture?
Chief Nishan Duraiappah was hired by the Peel police board specifically to turn the force around
The Pointer has been told by the executive director of the police board, Robert Serpe, a career public-sector bureaucrat who has served his masters loyally in return for handsome taxpayer-funded salaries (his service to the people who pay his way takes a backseat to Serpe’s bosses who sign the cheques) that the sense around the force is we are too preoccupied with the past. That was the reason why the recently named new chair of the board, Ahmad Attia, would not be made available for an interview with The Pointer.
The day after Kohler’s sentencing, this reporter also reached out to police communications, requesting a “fresh” comment on Kohler’s four-year sentence. The officer on duty said the request would be sent higher up the communications chain, but no timeline was given for a possible response. The Pointer asked if Peel police had any comment on the sentence, or ex-Peel regional police officer Pam Hand, the woman who tracked Kohler down in Nova Scotia and forced his confession, and believes the force was complicit in the crimes. Is an apology forthcoming? Any compensation to the Dickman family? How about any involvement with the community members determined to help others in Kevin’s name?
Pam Hand is the childhood friend of Dickman who spent 30 years with the force, many of those in the sex crimes unit. She talked to The Pointer just hours after the sentencing came down, vowing to hold her old employer accountable for the multiple crimes against her friend. Not charging Kohler in ’74, was a failure of process, a shameful immoral act, and an affront to justice for all.
“I’m not saying I’m ashamed that I was a police officer for 30 years, but I am ashamed that it was with the Peel police,” Hand said. Her words were filled with disgust and teary emotion.
“Imagine,” she continued, “that poor Kevin, after years of abuse, went to Peel police [in 1974] and told them about what Frank [Kohler] had done to him. And then they let Frank off! They let him walk! Imagine how Kevin felt about a justice system after this was over.”
Hand said she was losing faith in the system of justice as the clock ticked down to Monday morning’s sentencing. “I couldn’t sleep the night before. I worried that Kohler would walk away with a light sentence, maybe probation. That’s the type of result that often left me frustrated when I worked in the sex crimes unit and we tried bringing abusers to justice for some of the most despicable crimes on the books.”
She lauded the four-year sentence, and Kohler being put on a sex crimes registry. He will submit DNA samples, and once having served his sentence, ordered to steer clear of children in parks, playgrounds and daycare centres. He had already been banned from seeing three of his grandchildren, after the conviction.
Still, to Hand, this all feels deeply unsatisfying because of the heartbreaking outcome of Dickman’s life, and the fact he is dead.
In a statement filed to court, she said Kohler stole his youth, his innocence, and any chance he would ever have to live a normal life.
Dickman’s discordant lifestyle (homelessness, petty crime, drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues) included four failed attempts at suicide. In late October of 2019, he finally succeeded, his body fished out of the putrid Don River.
A story soon appeared about his years of suffering, which gutted his childhood friends, who then rallied to action. The pursuit of his abuser began when Phil Anderson, another Peel Village alumni and Kevin’s best friend, reported Kevin’s case to the SIU. Hand believed it was fruitless. Kohler was no longer a cop, it was a half-century ago, and she knew how slow the justice system worked. But it did work, and the SIU did probe fresh evidence to help them. Hand used the skills learned in the sex crimes unit to hunt down Kohler in Nova Scotia, interview him, and inform him about Kevin’s death. Did he feel any remorse, any responsibility?
Kohler was coy, admitted nothing, but didn’t deny any of Hand’s accusations and was obviously shaken by her guarantee to bring him to justice. He later went to a local detachment of the RCMP to give a videoed confession.
The SIU now had what it needed. It laid the charges. Peel police was complicit in the injustice but had nothing to do with the efforts to bring its former officer in to face judgement.
Hand lays Dickman’s death at Kohler’s feet, and the police force that employed him. They were constituted to provide protection and justice to a small boy.
Hand said about the sentencing, “The judge drilled down on the cop stuff, how he abused Kevin by using his powers, his authority, his badge, his oath, everything – including his position as a Big Brother. He used all this on someone so young.”
Justice LeDressay said Monday: “The gravity of the sexual violence against Mr. Dickman when he was a child is enormous.”
Dickman’s age, Kohler’s badge, his position as a mentor with Big Brothers, increased his “moral blameworthiness,” he said.
He was also troubled by a psychologist’s report that was given to him after Kohler sought out counselling in the wake of his confession. It was clear that even at his advanced age, Kohler still misunderstood the power mismatch. He told the psychologist his relationship with Dickman was a “romantic involvement.”
You could almost feel the Justice bristle at what that implied. This judge said, this wasn’t romance; he was an 11-year-old-boy! “It demonstrates a clear lack of insight into your criminal actions.” LeDressay was looking at Kohler who sat in front of him, out of the view of those watching on Zoom.
The Canadian and U.S. systems of justice and policing are different. A long-time police officer who is considered one of the world’s most authoritative trainers, thinks the Chauvin and Kohler cases are chilling reminders that evil lurks, and rogue cops can do exponential damage. He thinks the problem tumbles back to recruitment and hiring. “One standard shared on both sides of the border is that police hire people who shouldn’t be hired.”
If Canadians choose to take consolation in Chauvin’s assault, as something that could only happen in the U.S., he suggests googling the Sammy Yatim murder in Toronto in 2013.
The 18-year-old was coming off a streetcar and armed with a switchblade. He was shot eight times by 30-year-old Toronto Police Service officer James Forcillo. There were at least 10 officers surrounding him, and none stepped in to stop this blatant overkill. The incident drew more gasps when a late-arriving sergeant Tasered the dead man’s bullet-riddled body.
‘One Dead Indian’ is a documentary available on YouTube that captures the violence from the 1995 shooting of an unarmed 38-year-old named Dudley George by OPP acting sergeant Ken Deane. The Stoney Point First Nations’ members assembled at Ipperwash Provincial Park near Sarnia for what started out as a peaceful protest to reclaim a Native burial ground.
Then came escalation, and violence. Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and sentenced to serve two years less a day in the community, as well as 180 days of community service and no house arrest. Forcillo was guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to six years in prison, serving two.
Our training expert, who wished to remain anonymous, said police culture needs to embrace psychological testing, and up its game when it comes to recruiting and training. Embedded in all officers, even before they are selected, should be the will to de-escalate situations, not inflame them. Rogue cops, high on power, are the biggest worry, he said, because they can undermine all the training and good policing by violent, incomprehensible actions.
An incident that begins in a streetcar and spills onto the streets, or begins as protest at a provincial park, shouldn’t devolve into a killing field.
Evidence of a recruit’s character and their failings should be exposed before they take an oath or put on a badge. The simplistic approach to recruitment when Kohler was hired by a small-town force, led in a perfect line to the ruination of a young man’s life.
The Chauvin and Kohler cases, bridge two countries, and a half-century of policing. When the actions of these rogue cops are now viewed by the public, it only makes us warier of police, and police more defensive about their mandate.
Our police trainer said police should follow nation-wide standards like they do in the UK, where police uniforms, cars, equipment, and training are the same, creating a seamless system that is interchangeable, whatever the city, whatever the region. Setting universal standards can expose rogue cops, but just as importantly, rogue police forces.
It’s unimportant if Kohler’s actions were more depraved than Chauvin’s. Both had deadly consequences. Hand credits LeDressay with sending out a clear message that Kohler’s confession, his attempts at cleansing his soul, even his work as a pastor, might be noble, but they do not mitigate what he did. The passage of time doesn’t cancel out the abuse, either.
Dickman’s sad fate, his wasted years of homelessness, stands in stark contrast to Kohler’s comfortable later life.
While the judge did the right thing with Kohler, he never dressed down his former employer, that failed utterly to do the right thing.
Hand couldn’t hold back her contempt for Peel police. “What they did is horrible. Even the investigator to let Kohler go, Taggart, was promoted to chief.”
Chauvin was brought down by his actions, and a teenager’s cellphone.
There wasn’t that kind of technology when Kohler stalked his victim, and acted with impunity.
He was nicknamed Frank the Narc, because he also worked on the drug team. He often pulled his patrol car watched the young children in the Peel Village parks, taking a shine to one in particular, Dickman, the most vulnerable. The other kids said Kohler gave them the creeps.
Dickman had recently lost his beloved father to a sudden illness. His mother saw the shock to his psyche, phoned Big Brothers, said he needed a mentor, and Kohler checked all the boxes: police officer and Big Brother, and later Kevin’s hockey coach. These designations offered him another form of “qualified immunity” – they gave him the cover needed.
The sex abuse happened from 1969 to 1974, the year Peel Region and the Peel Regional Police Force came into being.
By then, Dickman had changed, said Hand, more inward, more guarded, more fearful. No one knew the abuse was taking place at Kohler’s home, in motels, during a three-week vacation in Europe, even while on visit to his parent’s home in Nova Scotia.
Everything was exposed in videoed confessional to RCMP, but hinted at in 2005 in a CBC documentary on homelessness. Dickman was interviewed and looked hard into the camera, a pained expression on his face. He said of his abuse, “it’s something that stays with your emotions and on your soul. It doesn’t wipe away and it’s something that stays with you forever.”
Hand remembers a day in Brampton court when she was still a patrol officer and a dishevelled Dickman was called into the prisoner’s docket for a petty crime. Her emotions were rubbed raw as she replayed the memory. “I didn’t speak up for him. I looked at his face that day in the box, as he said to the judge, ‘I need help.’ I think back to that day when he told the judge he was abused by his Big Brother, a cop. I should have stood up. There was so much I could have done. I hope [her pursuit of Kohler, his sentencing] helped redeem myself.”
She wished she had been in the courtroom to see Kohler’s face when he was given his sentence, instead of watching it on Zoom.
Kevin’s long-time counsellor Paula Tookey was also taking in the sentencing on social media. Both women cried openly whenever the judge talked about the abuse, or read from their own victim’s statements, which they provided to counter any claims Kohler might put forward to ease his sentence.
When it was read out, the proceeding ended, and the view on screen was of an empty courtroom. Both Tookey and Hand lingered, perhaps stunned by the sentence, but also afraid to let go. This was the end of their friend’s saga. Justice had been done, but Kevin was still gone, dead by suicide.
Both women agreed that Kohler robbed their friend of everything. Each has said, he probably never lived a happy day for the rest of his life.
Kohler didn’t dig a knee into the neck of his victim. He simply used his age, and his immunity as a pillar of society to dominate a child. Serial sexual abuse of a child involves depravity only imagined in the depths of satanic hell. He slowly suffocated his helpless, unformed victim. When Dickman stepped or jumped into the Don River and settled his head under the water, he wasn’t like George Floyd – he didn’t plead for his life but welcomed death.
He didn’t ask to breathe, but wanted his lungs to fill with water.
None of this has stirred Peel Police to repay the debt they owe Dickman for the abuse they caused him by allowing Kohler to escape justice.
Hand and Tookey also agree that all their friend wanted was for someone in authority to believe his story, that he was not a bad person, but a victim of abuse, at the hands of a Peel police officer.
This is all, in the end, unsatisfying.
Nothing will resurrect Floyd or Dickman – or the reputations of the Minneapolis and Peel police force, unless the latter two seek reform.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told leaders of the nation's largest law-enforcement organizations recently that his Department of Justice will investigate the goings-on inside Minneapolis police. The hope is to flush out the racism, to make sure no more Chauvins patrol the streets. It will be the first – but not the last – civil-rights probe of a local agency. There’s no sense Kohler’s sentencing will draw the attention of this province’s Attorney General to lead a probe of the Peel force, seen as one of the most wayward in Ontario.
Sorry Chief Duraiappah, E.D. Serpe and Chair Attia, but the past is the story. You may want to gloss over it, sweep the last 50 years away. But the past is your DNA. It is the well-established culture that was passed from Frank Kohler and the senior officers who conspired to hide his horrific crimes, to the officers who once again looked the other way two decades later, and all those officers today, like Peel police union president Constable Adrian Woolley, who represents the force as a symbol of what it stands for.
Peel Police Association union President Adrian Woolley has been easily elected by the membership, suggesting little has changed inside the force
He was convicted of driving drunk in 2019, going 174 km/h, with a blood alcohol level 50 percent over the legal limit.
After his conviction and the criminal record now permanently on his file, the constable showed how remorseful he really is and what the Peel force’s reputation means to him.
During the Black Lives Matter public campaign following George Floyd’s murder last year at the hands of a police officer, Woolley tweeted out racially charged comments and he openly mocked Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who sits on the Peel police board, for supporting the BLM movement. “Oh @BonnieCrombie just when I think you can’t say or do anything dumber…….. You go and prove me wrong,” he tweeted last summer, in response to a post by Crombie in support of efforts by the NBA and the BLM movement to highlight systemic racism in policing.
The man who speaks on behalf of more than 2,000 uniform officers in the Peel police force, which is supposed to protect two cities where two-thirds of the population is not white, felt zero concern about posting racially charged messages and publicly attacking a woman who governs his own department.
He represents a fundamental problem in policing: bad officers and bad behaviour that is reflexively defended by other officers, even those in senior ranks. There are good officers, but how do you think they feel in a department whose union leader is a man with a criminal record who uses racial dog whistling that further alienates at least two-thirds of the communities they are supposed to serve and protect?
Woolley's behaviour was an obvious example that the past is very much alive and well inside the ranks of Peel police.
It didn’t end there.
Last year, one of Woolley’s Inside the Thin Blue Line columns, which he pens for the regular newsletter that goes out to all union members, included remarks about Duraiappah and senior leadership, who he said are “desperate to keep their heads above water in a world flooded with increasingly hostile anti police rhetoric and sentiment.”
He said an agreement between the chief and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and Duraiappah’s presentation of the deal, undermined police officers and was being used as an attack against them.
“Instead of relying on the facts in issue to battle for the truth in court, the notion of systemic racism, however vague it may be, is now an acceptable way to attack the actions of our officers,” Woolley wrote.
Duraiappah likely knows Woolley is an ambitious ladder climber who could care less about the residents the force is supposed to protect, an unfortunate problem the chief inherited when he came on board in late 2019.
But he’s dreaming if he thinks the past doesn’t matter. Woolley gets re-elected easily by the vast majority of officers because they, like him, are a product of the DNA that established the department’s disturbing culture decades ago.
Unlike new Ottawa Chief Pete Sloly, who has made clear that the old culture is being rooted out, and that the past needs to serve as a lesson, so a new future can be achieved, Peel’s chief seems to think people like Woolley have to be tolerated, because the culture he represents is too deeply entrenched.
Duraiappah did nothing after the union president’s drunk driving conviction (a senior officer determined a slap on the wrist was fine and ordered an eight-month demotion to the next constable class). Nothing was done after the racially insensitive tweets or Woolley’s attack on Crombie, a board member, who hired the chief.
And now, no apology for Peel police’s criminal behaviour in the Kevin Dickman case.
It’s clear the chief doesn’t think much of the past. To him, Peel police wiped the slate clean the day he walked in the door. 'Nothing to see. Everything is fine. Let me take care of it my way'.
Pretty surprising stuff for a man who came out of nowhere to get the job, perhaps partly due to his close relationship to Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who sat on the board at the time and recommended his friend for the job.
Duraiappah, like Serpe and Chair Attia, hope the past will just magically disappear and people like Woolley will suddenly find religion. They think a deal with the human rights commission automatically makes everything okay.
They see no need to apologize to Kevin Dickman for the force’s crushing failure. That was the past.
But, as William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
Unlike those institutions wise enough to realize the past is everything, Peel police’s leadership seems more interested in saving face. Like Donald Trump, they fail to realize that refusing to own up to mistakes, only makes them worse.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has made plenty of his own mistakes, realized the damage to our First Nations was too profound, and that the DNA that caused that damage is still embedded in the bloodline of Parliament. When he issued an apology for centuries of government destruction done to Indigenous peoples, it was a recognition that without facing the past, and committing completely to change, Faulkner’s words would continue to define Canada’s reality.
Within Peel police, Adrian Woolley represents the same DNA today that gave birth to the force five decades ago when it abandoned Kevin Dickman to protect one of its own.
The jury is still out on Chief Duraiappah. We will find out what his DNA is made of, though, as his actions and inactions reveal what his ultimate goals are.
As for the former Peel and Minneapolis police officers now sitting in a prison cell, we know evil reveals itself in indifference to the suffering of others. Historian Sebastian Haffner called it characterology – normal people operating without a smidgen of humanity.
Both Kohler and Chauvin were unsuited for careers in law enforcement. They should never have been given power, or any kind of immunity. The question to be asked now: How many of them still infest our police forces?
There are numerous cases of corrupt, deceitful, and criminal cops. Officers and entire forces seem to lack the will, training or smarts to de-escalate incidents. But it is the rogue officers that remain the big worry, said our police trainer.
Kohler used the impunity and immunity offered him as an officer and Big Brother, to abuse a child. Because he wore a badge, his crimes against Dickman were more severe, and demanded a harsher sentence. You shouldn’t be able to use your badge to do harm. The image of Derek Chauvin, hands in pocket, knee on neck, an expression of blank indifference on his face as his victim pleads for his life, is indelibly imprinted into the collective consciousness of millions – thanks to social media, our 24-hour news cycle, and a teen with a cellphone. Pam Hand tells The Pointer she can’t watch the video, that it’s a snuff film. It’s too cruel by ten. She can’t imagine such depravity carried out by someone wearing a badge.
Kohler’s sentence was met with silence by the third largest municipal police force in Canada. It was the same response it gave Kevin Dickman when he offered up evidence to a future chief of the force about his sexual abuser.
Indifference. Silence. Inaction.
That’s what killed George Floyd.
That’s what ruined a Brampton boy’s life.
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