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Globe and Mail - Thur. Sept. 21, 2006 - By Armina Ligaya
Off-duty Peel police face internal probe
Pair say up to 20 partying officers chased after them, trying to take away videotape
Peel Regional Police yesterday took photos and looked over a Mississauga parking lot where two neighbours say up to 20 off-duty officers were drinking and partying late into the night and chased them when the men videotaped their activities.
Richard Cimpoesu alleges that he and Orlando Canizalez were threatened and assaulted on Aug. 28 when they were caught with a camera while hiding in the bushes beside the Dundas Street West parking lot -- located a half-block from the 11 Division police station.
Mr. Cimpoesu said that, based on comments he overheard, he believed the revellers were police officers even though none of them was wearing a uniform.
"I couldn't believe what I saw. That's why I got my video camera. . . . [But] I didn't expect a confrontation," the 24-year-old said.
Mr. Cimpoesu and Mr. Canizalez have retained lawyer Bill Bain, who said a letter of complaint has been sent to police Chief Mike Metcalf. The chief was not available for comment yesterday, but a spokesman confirmed an investigation is under way.
Mr. Cimpoesu, whose mother lives in the townhouse complex next to the Ethan Allen lot, said he heard "loud people screaming at the top of their lungs" at 3 a.m.
Tania Ghie, 31, a housewife who also lives in the complex on Fifth Line, said she, too, noticed loud noises. She said her children were awakened by shouting and swearing in the early hours.
Brett Lynds, 42, said that for about eight months he regularly overheard partiers on weekends.
Mr. Cimpoesu said the noise prompted him and Mr. Canizalez to investigate.
"If we were out there doing the exact same thing, we would get ticketed . . . and we would be charged," Mr. Cimpoesu said.
The video, a copy of which has been given to Peel police and which was viewed by a reporter at Mr. Bain's office, had a grainy quality but showed clear faces, licence plates and men and women drinking from beer bottles.
"The party starts now!" a man can be heard shouting, before howling loudly. References to "sarge" and "reasonable, probable grounds" can also be heard.
After they were discovered videotaping, Mr. Cimpoesu said, several men chased them and demanded the recording. Mr. Canizalez said that as they fled, he tossed the camera into the trees separating the parking lot from the townhouse complex. They retrieved the tape a few hours later, after they had been confronted by the group.
Peel police spokesman Constable Pete Brandwood said internal affairs is probing the allegations.
"If in fact these allegations are substantiated, and the thorough investigation indicates evidence of wrongdoing, there will be appropriate disciplinary action," he said.
Constable Brandwood said that due of the large number of officers alleged to be involved, the probe would take some time to complete.
Mr. Canizalez and Mr. Cimpoesu met with internal affairs for four hours on Tuesday, Mr. Bain said.
He said his clients are waiting to see the police department's response to their complaint. As well, they are waiting to see whether they suffer any adverse effects from their encounter before pressing ahead with any legal action, he said.
Mr. Cimpoesu said the incident was traumatic and he "can't walk down the street without looking over my shoulder" but he didn't want to lump all police officers into the same pile.
"There's no malicious intent here. . . . We want people to know that there are officers that are willing to do this, that aren't afraid to do it."
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