News Local

Cop questioned over marijuana talk

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Orillia's OPP detachment

Orillia's OPP detachment

The OPP says one of its officers took a bad trip when he spoke at a conference on marijuana legalization last year.

Sgt. Dan Mulligan, a 33-year veteran with the provincial police force, is before the professional services bureau on two counts of insubordination and discreditable conduct, stemming from an appearance at the 2015 Not By Accident conference.

He was one of eight speakers during the day when the legalization of marijuana was the main topic of discussion, one of the four speakers in favour of legalizing pot. With the conference taking place in London, Ont., organizers sought a nearby member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Mulligan was their man.

One problem: He was directly ordered not to speak at the conference.

"This case is about the disregarding of that order and speaking at that conference," said Andrea Huckins, counsel for the OPP in the adjudication. "The charges are not about his beliefs, but acting on them in the manner he did."

Tuesday at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia, Mulligan testified that in 2010, following an interaction with a neighbour in Bracebridge who had recently been charged with "simple possession" of marijuana following a RIDE check, he began to liberalize his views on the controlled substance. While he had been a police officer for nearly 30 years by that point, including more than 15 years on patrol in a variety of facets, he had spent the previous nine years in the air as a helicopter pilot for the search-and-rescue team. He was unaware front-line police officers were still issuing charges for simple possession.

That got him worried about at-risk youth, who may not have the luxury his neighbour had.

"Where do the kids from the wrong side of the tracks go when they don't have a friendly cop in the neighbourhood?" Mulligan said during his testimony.

His new views on pot found him a home as member of the Liberal Party of Canada. At its policy convention in 2012, Mulligan spoke in favour of legalization. He joined LEAP soon after he became a card-carrying Liberal.

In the time between joining and the September 2015 conference, he had participated in about a dozen engagements, where he spoke on marijuana legalization. Not once had he sought permission from his superiors. The only noted issue from his advocacy was an order to remove a pro-legalization bumper sticker from his vehicle - but not to change his personalized "LEGALIZE" licence plate.

"These actions were on my own time and my own dime," Mulligan said. "The opinions expressed were my personal opinions and certainly didn't represent my employer."

Usually, this was expressly stated. A regular phrase during his speaking engagements advertised Mulligan as a police officer who is sharing his opinion on marijuana regulation and that opinion is neither endorsed nor shared by his employer.

That disclaimer was missing in a pamphlet circulated a few months prior to the 2015 Not By Accident conference. It stated Mulligan was a police officer, but did little to distance his views from the OPP.

On June 30, 2015, Mulligan was called the office of Staff Sgt. Dave Cameron and told in no uncertain terms to cancel his appearance at the conference. Cameron gave the order first verbally, and then in writing, as per Mulligan's request.

There was little, if any, contested evidence at the hearing. Mulligan agreed he received the order and that he spoke at the conference anyway.

What was contested was the OPP's ability to give that order. Mulligan's counsel, James Girvin, agreed police officers can be punished for their actions when they are off duty.

"But can they be lawfully instructed how to act?" he asked.

He suggested the order given to Mulligan wasn't proper when disputing the insubordination charges, that the OPP hadn't explained how the Police Services Act regulated Mulligan's activities after hours.

Also, he argued Mulligan should be found not guilty on the discreditable-conduct charge, because the officer wasn't making the OPP look bad in the eyes of a "reasonable person" when speaking on legalization.

In Girvin's assumption, the OPP believes it would look bad because one of its members had taken a pro-pot stance, but offered if the majority of Canadians support the legalization of marijuana, a police officer with like-minded views could be viewed favourably.

Huckins offered a different take on what a reasonable person may see when Mulligan speaks out on marijuana legalization.

"This creates a conflict of interest, or at least a potential conflict of interest," she said. "He is a representative of a police force, giving a talk about a law he is to be enforcing and giving a contrary opinion."

Supt. Gregory Walton is overseeing the adjudication. He indicated his decision in the matter will come in the second week of January or later.

pbales@postmedia.com

twitter.com/patrickbales



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