A Windsor police officer who specializes in domestic violence investigations will be temporarily demoted after having a sexual relationship with the “vulnerable victim” in one of his cases.
const. Peter Burke, who in June pleaded guilty to three counts of insubordination and one count of disgraceful conduct, was told on Wednesday that he will be demoted for 12 months.
“He was aware of his actions,” Police Inspector Windsor said. Jill Lawrence, who acted as a prosecutor during the Police Services Act hearing. “He used his position as a police officer to connect and build a relationship for personal gain.”
Burke’s one-year relegation from first-class senior agent to second-class agent begins Sunday. His salary will drop from $112,512 to $95,464, for a loss of $17,048 over the 12 months.
The sentence was a joint submission by Shawn McCurdy, president of the Lawrence and Windsor Police Association, who acted as defense.
Lawrence said the relegation is intended as a form of discipline for Burke and a deterrent to others. She said the punishment should also reflect the seriousness of the police misconduct and reputational damage, while also serving the public interest.
“We want to assure the public that the police are under control,” Lawrence said.
Burke joined the Windsor Police Department in 2003. He spent 11 years in the patrol department before working in the Family Violence Unit, the Serious Crime Unit and the Special Victim Unit, where he specialized in intimate partner violence. In November 2017, Burke was assigned to one such case.
During the investigation, he began an intimate relationship with the “vulnerable victim,” according to an agreed fact sheet.
Burke also investigated other cases, including court violations involving the woman, who was called “the involved party” during Wednesday’s hearing, and her ex-husband.
Lawrence said there is no evidence that Burke neglected his duties, although he has not disclosed his conflict of interest to his supervisors.
But Lawrence and McCurdy both pointed out that Burke pleaded guilty and was collaborating with investigators from the Windsor Police Department’s professional standards division. They agreed that his remorse and cooperation, along with a work record with many positive reactions from the public, colleagues and supervisors, should be mitigating factors.
McCurdy said the relegation is a “significant penalty”. He added that Burke will be plagued by a “stigma” among his colleagues and supervisors, and his credibility as a police officer will be tarnished. He said Burke also interacts with his wife and family in his personal life.
“He understands the impact this will have on him and his family,” McCurdy said.
Lawrence said there is no doubt that Burke’s actions have damaged his relationships with friends and family.
“But I must add that the damage caused was his own doing,” she said.
When given a chance to speak on Wednesday before the sentence was handed down, Burke said he wanted to apologize to everyone who attended the hearing.
“Especially the affected party,” Burke said. “I know I brought her shame and humiliation. I want to apologize to my family.”
He said he takes responsibility for his actions and has endured his own embarrassment, including “mocking” from colleagues.
“My choices have affected my career,” Burke said. ‘I destroyed my family. I’ve ruined any chance of promotion or promotion, at least for the next five years. And worse, I will have to live with this for the rest of my life.”
Hearing officer Morris Elbers told Burke he was “tumbling on the brink of discharge”, but added that the mitigating factors put him in “relegation range”.
He said it is difficult to understand Burke’s offense after a previously “flawless career”.
“You went off track,” said Elbers, a retired OPP inspector. “You took the detour.”
“You have broken your principles and police policies for a long time.”