Thunder Bay police chief arrested and charged in misconduct probe

A former police chief in the northern Ontario city of Thunder Bay was arrested and charged on Friday, marking the third arrest in an ongoing investigation by provincial police into allegations of misconduct at the force.

Ontario Provincial Police said they arrested Sylvie Hauth, 57, and charged her with two counts of obstructing justice, one count of breach of trust and one obstruction count.

Hauth was then released, the force said. She is set to appear in court on May 7.

The OPP did not provide any further comment on the case.

Shortly after the charges were announced, Hauth’s lawyer, Scott Hutchison, said the former police chief “is confident she will prevail.”

“The decision to charge Chief Hauth is both disappointing and regrettable,” Hutchison wrote in a statement.

Hauth has served Thunder Bay for decades, “beginning as a front-line police officer, eventually rising through the ranks to serve as the service’s first female chief of police for the last six years of her career,” he wrote.

“She looks forward to her trial where she will present her defence,” Hutchison said.

Hauth became the third – and most high profile – arrest in the OPP’s investigation.

Holly Walbourne, the former in-house lawyer for the police service, was charged earlier this week with similar offences. Walbourne’s lawyers said they were shocked at the charges and looked forward to defending them in court.

In December, police arrested officer Michael Dimini and charged him with two counts of assault, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

The charges come after Ontario’s attorney general asked the OPP in late 2021 to look into allegations of misconduct by members of the Thunder Bay police force.

In court documents filed Friday, police allege Hauth and Walbourne obstructed the Thunder Bay Police Services Board between Oct. 8, 2021,and Oct 19, 2021 by “practicing deception, including the making of false statements.”

Police also allege the two made false and misleading comments to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the documents show.

The Thunder Bay police force has faced intense scrutiny in recent years after reports found its investigations into the sudden deaths of Indigenous people had been tainted by racist attitudes and stereotyping, while others raised concerns about the ability of its senior leaders to run day-to-day operations.

Current Thunder Bay police Chief Darcy Fleury, who took over the top job nearly a year ago, said Friday that the force has “fully co-operated” in the OPP’s investigation.

“It is another step toward resolution of this matter, and our ability to wholly move forward as a police service,” he wrote in a statement.

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