Cop who led sting targeting gay men now accused of inappropriate relationship with student
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Cop who led sting targeting gay men now accused of inappropriate relationship with student

Constable Kevin Ward's case is now before a police disciplinary tribunal

Ward is seen in a video taken at a Rovers event. (YouTube/Toronto Police Services, h/t Metro Toronto.)

The Etobicoke Guardian published a sensational story last November detailing a police crackdown on public sex in Marie Curtis Park. Constable Kevin Ward and his colleague showed a Guardian reporter “a pit in Marie Curtis Park that is used for sexual behaviour,” and detailed “Project Marie,” a weeks-long police operation into indecent behaviour and public sex. Project Marie had racked up charges against 72 people. Later, describing the reach of Marie Curtis Park as a public sex destination, Ward lamented that 22 Division had “our work cut out for us,” adding: “I want anyone engaging in these illegitimate activities to know that this is no longer a safe place for this to happen. We are going to be at the park every day and we will not be tolerating it.”

Much quieter was the more recent revelation that, during the period of Project Marie and beyond, Ward had allegedly maintained an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate member of a student group, as Metro Toronto first reported.

The accusations, which date to a period between September 2016 to January 2017, were made by a young woman who was a member of the 22 Division Police Service Rover Crew. The Rover Crew is a partnered program with Humber College and Scouts Canada. “Rovers are the Scouting designation for young women and men 18 to 26 years old,” the TPS site explains.

A woman identified as “C.H.” alleged that Ward showed her “several cellphone videos, including footage of ‘vehicle investigations’ and ‘arrests of unknown persons.’” Videotaping arrests is a contravention of police policy and standards of conduct. He was also described as making “inappropriate comments, gestures, or suggestions” to several “subordinate” group members, including C.H., during Rovers’ activities, such as a Rovers portaging trip to Algonquin Park. “During this trip, [Ward] had the occasion to go canoeing with I.G. and while she stepped into the canoe, [Ward] made an inappropriate comment to I.G,” reads the notice of hearing.

Now Ward faces three charges of professional misconduct and, according to Metro, made a brief appearance at a TPS disciplinary tribunal, entering no plea. None of the allegations against him have been verified, and when contacted the TPS said they cannot comment on an ongoing case.

There is a direct tie between Project Marie, Const. Ward, and a history of policing sexuality in Toronto.

Within months of Police Chief Mark Saunders issuing a formal apology for the TPS’ 1981 gay bathhouse raids and 2000 Pussy Palace raid—which was by no means the end of police targeting gay and lesbian sexuality in Toronto—the TPS apparently decided to undertake an expensive, long-running, undercover sex sting disproportionately targeting men who have sex with men. The sting operation, as Ward described it, involved stepping up patrols, riding the trails, and reaching out to community members. Then, plainclothes officers began operating in the park, entrapping people cruising the park for public sex. Dressed for the undercover portion of the operation, Ward himself, the article explained, had witnessed indecent exposure first-hand.

In every interview, police were careful to say that Project Marie targeted a particular lewd behaviour, not a demographic. “I want to make it very clear that the purpose of this project is not to target any one specific orientation or anything like that,” Ward told the Guardian.

Toronto police have an officer assigned as a liaison to the LGBTQ community, but nobody bothered calling her until a week after the raids had been publicly announced. Ward says that was because the sting didn’t set out to target any specific sexual orientation, despite the obvious homogeneity of the accused: they were 95 per cent men who, for the most part, had been soliciting sex from other men.

Meanwhile, with increased public scrutiny of TPS actions, including the killing of unarmed black men and inflammatory remarks about HIV/AIDS, the TPS is likely all too happy to take an easy win in demonizing public sex between consenting adults, conveniently lumping it in with flashers and sex offenders, while letting a case of an officer grossly abusing his power over student subordinates pass by on the down-low.

In Ward’s own words: the community wants anyone engaging in these illegitimate activities to know that this is no longer a safe place for this to happen. We are scrutinizing what you do every day and we will not be tolerating it.