BY RATTAN MALL
YORK Regional Police Sgt. Gurdip Panaich and his family have suffered tremendously since March 2015 when Panaich was wrongly charged with extortion and obstruction of justice and was for a brief time suspended from the police force.
But now Ontario’s police watchdog, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), has found that a Peel Regional Police detective conducted a “biased” extortion probe against Panaich as well as against civilian Surjit Brar – and then “authorized a fabricated media release that tarnished the reputation” of the two men. The press release incorrectly linked the men with firearm offenses.
The charges against Panaich and Brar were withdrawn by the Crown a few months later. But the two men and their families have suffered enormously because of a Peel Regional Police investigator against whom the OIPRD found evidence to substantiate five counts of misconduct as defined under Ontario’s Police Services Act. (The allegations against the investigator have not been tested at a police disciplinary tribunal.)
Gurdip Panaich told The VOICE on Tuesday: “This investigative report which is 239 pages long reveals the truth that I was a victim of the false arrest, biased investigation and fabricated news. These false allegations affected my health, professional reputation, social relationship and financial loss. Now it is the time to bring all those who were responsible to justice.”
Gurdip’s wife Gugni Gill Panaich told The VOICE: “Lies may appear victorious but they are short-lived. Me and my boys are very thankful for this report. The bad publicity affected my political career, not to mention the stress and social stigma we also had to endure.”
To South Asians, this case is a graphic example of how easy it is to tarnish the reputation of South Asian officers by white investigators. Indeed, this will remain a black mark on the reputation of Peel Regional Police that look after the highly multicultural Brampton and Mississauga cities.
IN a letter dated November 3, 2017, to Panaich, Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director, informed him that the OIPRD had completed its investigation into the complaint lodged by him and Brar.
He added: “After a careful consideration of all available information, I have found that there is evidence of misconduct as defined by the Police Services Act regarding the following allegations involving Detective Robert Crane.”
* “Unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority” in that Crane “did not have reasonable grounds to arrest and charge [Panaich and Brar] with extortion.”
* “Discreditable conduct” in that Crane “was biased in his investigation of [Panaich and Brar].”
* “Discreditable conduct” in that Crane “authorized a fabricated media release that tarnished the reputation of [Panaich and Brar].”
* “Discreditable conduct” in that Crane authorized the tow of [Paniach’s] vehicle for unknown reasons.”
* “Neglect of duty” in that Crane “arrested [Brar] at his residence without the requisite judicial authorization.”
MEANWHILE, The Toronto Star reported that Peel Regional Police Sgt. Josh Colley told them that Crane has not been formally charged under the police act and said the OIPRD report is under review.
It also reported that the Peel police board has denied allegations of a negligent investigation in response to a $1-million lawsuit filed in 2016 by Panaich, Brar and York Const. Sukhdeep Brar, Brar’s brother, who was investigated by Peel but never charged.
The complex case stemmed from allegations made in 2014 to Peel police by Brampton real-estate broker Dale Mundi that he was being defamed online.
Regarding the “fabricated media release,” it linked Panaich and Surjit Brar to “an extortion plot” involving five men and referred to 14 firearms-related charges against a Caledon man.
The OIPRD’s findings show that the charges against the Caledon man stemmed from an “unrelated investigation.” Panaich and Surjit Brar told the Star that the inclusion of that man’s charges tarnished their reputations further, making it appear that there was a gang operating in Brampton involving police officers and people with guns.