WATERLOO REGION - A former Waterloo Regional Police officer who was suspended with pay for three years sent an email to police thanking them for his continued salary while he sat at home, played golf, travelled and took a course to become a firefighter.
"I am very thankful and fortunate to have received such a nice gift from WRPS over the last three years. You have opened up others doors for me and have paid me to sit back and watch. What a dream come true," Craig Markham wrote in an email on March 27 addressed to the police service's solicitor.
Police Chief Bryan Larkin presented the letter to members of the Region of Waterloo Police Services Board at a meeting Wednesday.
"He (Markham) mocks what is supposed to be a fair and judicial system," Larkin said in an interview.
"It sends a bad message to the community. More importantly, it harms and takes away from the incredible work of the 760 officers who are out there everyday putting their lives at risk," Larkin said.
"It's an abuse of system and I believe the system needs to be change."
In a sarcastic tone, Markham said he was paid a first-class paycheque, receiving full benefits and pension without having to work.
"So really I was in no rush. Timing couldn't have been better," said Markham, who added he was "down south" playing golf until the end of April and "hanging out on the beach using some of that WRPS sick bank payout."
In the email, Markham said he has a "close family member" at a fire service and he was recently offered a job, starting May 1.
He does not work at the fire departments in Cambridge, Kitchener or Waterloo.
At the board meeting, Larkin said the email was offensive and highlights the immediate change needed to provincial legislation which allows officers who are criminally charged to receive their salaries pending appeals.
Markham, 37, an officer for 11 years, was charged criminally with breach of trust. He pleaded guilty and was given a conditional discharge in October 2012.
He also faced Police Act charges including breach of confidence, insubordination and discreditable conduct after he leaked private information on someone who was in custody to the person's partner.
Markham was working the front desk at the Kitchener detachment in September 2011 when a friend, who had ties to the Hells Angels, was arrested on drug trafficking charges. The officer received a text from the man's common-law wife and he logged onto a police computer to call up a report on the investigation.
Markham went to the holding cell and passed on information to the arrested man as surveillance cameras recorded the meeting.
After a formal hearing, Markham was fired. He appealed the decision and received his salary during an appeal process. A first-class constable earns an annual salary of $90,348.
A civilian commission dismissed his appeal and he was ordered to resign. He quit on Feb. 18 this year.
Ontario is the only province that allows charged officers to continue to receive their pay.
Larkin said the Ontario chiefs of police have been calling for change for a long time but there seems to be "no traction" from the province. He hopes this case prompts the province to action.
"It gives us credibility around what we are calling for. This is isn't chiefs trying to exercise power. This is about good governance and responding to our community," he said.
The Markham email will be sent to politicans. .
"I'm disappointed that we even find ourselves in this process," he said. "The fact that someone would actually take the opportunity to talk about this really highlights exactly what the chiefs have been saying for years."
"This is about rooting the evil of our organizations. I still believe we have incredible support and trust but we can never lose sight of that," he said.
Board chair Tom Galloway said board members were "quite offended" with the tone of the email.
"It's a huge amount of money, taxpayers' money and we are getting no value for it," he said.
Paul Perchaluk, president of the Waterloo Regional Police Association, said he hasn't spoken to Markham since he resigned and he saw the letter for the first time at the meeting.
"I don't know what motivated him to write it. He was sarcastic," said Perchaluk, who added that it was unfortunate that the service disclosed a personal letter.
Perchaluk said changes need to be made to the process which stretches out for long periods of time, forcing people to find work elsewhere. But he suggested police suspend too quickly and should give officers other work so they are still doing a job while receiving a salary.
(Waterloo Region Record)