Disciplined police officer asks court to reverse violation of his privacy and freedom of expression

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Photo Credit: Dan Janisse/Postmedia Network

Disciplined police officer asks court to reverse violation of his privacy and freedom of expression

Photo Credit: Dan Janisse/Postmedia Network

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TORONTO, ON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announces that Constable Michael Brisco has asked the Ontario Divisional Court in Toronto to review a charge of discreditable conduct for donating $50 to the peaceful Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa in 2022.

Constable Brisco was on unpaid leave due to the Windsor Police Service’s (WPS) vaccine mandate when, on February 8, 2022, he exercised his freedoms of expression and association by donating $50 to the 2022 Freedom Convoy protest via GiveSendGo. He did so privately and without mentioning his capacity as police officer.

Before the donation had reached Freedom Convoy recipients, a court order froze the GiveSendGo account. Shortly after the freeze, GiveSendGo’s website was hacked. Donor information was leaked to the public. On February 16, the Ontario Provincial Police obtained the leaked information and, despite knowing that the information had been illegally hacked, relayed that information to various police services around the province. Nothing in the leaked information identified Constable Brisco as a police officer. However, his name surfaced when the stolen database was cross-referenced with a police members database. He was called in for an interview with a WPS investigator and was required to answer the investigator’s questions about the donation pursuant to the Police Services Act.

The WPS charged Constable Brisco with discreditable conduct and eventually summoned him to a Discipline Hearing. The case against him was motivated by the assumption that he had contributed to an illegal protest. In support of the claim that the protest had been illegal, however, the WPS presented nothing more than the contents of newspaper reports, citing the opinions of the Prime Minister, the Premier of Ontario, and the (then) Ottawa Police Chief.

The prosecution made submissions about the Ambassador Bridge protest, trying to tie it to the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa. Trucks had parked on the bridge between Windsor and Detroit in a separate protest against Covid restrictions. The implication was that Constable Brisco’s donation supported the bridge blockade in Windsor. But there was no financial or even organizational connection between the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa and the Ambassador Bridge protest. Furthermore, Constable Brisco stated his donation was intended for the protest in Ottawa, not for the protest in Windsor. Nevertheless, on March 24, 2023, after a six-day hearing before a Hearing Officer, Brisco was found guilty of discreditable conduct. On May 18, 2023, he was fined the equivalent of two-weeks’ pay.

That decision was appealed on June 14, 2023, but it was upheld by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission in February 2024. In response to this decision, lawyers provided by the Justice Centre have assisted Constable Brisco in applying for a judicial review – a process by which courts make sure that the decisions of administrative bodies (e.g., the Windsor Police Service) are fair, reasonable, and lawful.

With assistance from the Justice Centre, Constable Brisco continues to stand up for his Charter-protected freedom of expression. He made a private political donation and did not identify himself as a police officer. Like other Canadians, police officers enjoy Charter freedoms and can express themselves within reason. Canadians should not be punished for expressing their political views, especially when evidence against them is obtained by unlawful means.

Darren Leung, one of the lawyers for Constable Brisco, stated, “It was unfortunate that private donor information was unlawfully accessed. It is outrageous that the Ontario Provincial Police obtained this information to assist in persecuting police officers who were exercising their right to free expression. The evidence used to convict Constable Brisco amounted to nothing more than opinions from people who did not like the message. We are hopeful that the Divisional Court will see that the entire conviction was unreasonable.”

Constable Brisco, a highly trained and respected police officer of 15 years, is now back on active duty.

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You can make a secure and convenient online donation here. Simply choose how much you would like to give and how often. Credit card donations can also be made by phone: 403-475-3622.

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