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I was a hero then, Lafrance says

Cst. Christi Lafrance(R) and her partner Cathi Richardson and their adopted son Liam.

Cst. Christi Lafrance(R) and her partner Cathi Richardson and their adopted son Liam.

It was supposed to be a new start for Christi Lafrance, a return to her home turf after 12 years with the Toronto Police Service.

That new start, though, has turned into a nightmare, said Lafrance, a constable with the North Bay Police Service, whose hiring in March 2002 was much heralded by top police brass including former chief George Berrigan and current chief Paul Cook.

More like a rumour
Within a month after joining the North Bay service, Lafrance justified her heralded advance notice by going undercover as part of Operation Fareplay, an investigation into the local taxi business.

“I was a hero then,” sighed Lafrance, 38, during a long and wide-ranging interview with in her Rutherglen home, where she lives with her partner Cathi Richardson, their adopted son Liam, and two dogs and seven cats.

But Lafrance’s fortunes have taken a downturn over the last 14 months, and the hero status, she said, seems more like a rumour, like it never happened.

Justified in the force
Several weeks ago Lafrance was charged with assault, under the Canadian Criminal Code, and discreditable conduct and unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority under the Police Services Act of Ontario.

The charges stem from an incident in October of 2002 in which a male in custody was allegedly assaulted by a North Bay Police officer.

Lafrance doesn’t dispute force was used in the incident, but denies she assaulted the prisoner, who has yet to file a complaint against her.

“I used force on him yes, but I was justified in the force that I used,” Lafrance said.

“I can use as much force as necessary to affect the arrest.”

Litany of allegations
Chief Paul Cook said Lafrance is facing assault charges because during the course of an investigation deputy chief Al Williams, who was an inspector then, uncovered “a criminal allegation whereby Cst. Lafrance was involved in striking a handcuffed prisoner and circumstances warranted the laying of the criminal charges and that’s what transpired.”

Lafrance, who’s off work on sick leave now, said many more things transpired during her tenure with the police service, and she described a litany of allegations.

She said, for example, that she, her partner and their adopted son are being followed by the North Bay Police Service and she fears for their safety.

Lafrance said as well she was once ordered to close a sexual assault case with no charges after it was disclosed the suspect was a friend of one of her police supervisors; alleged she was told by one of her supervisors the police service did not follow case law; and stated that she was sent out on calls without back-up.

Not fair to her
Chief Cook said he was hearing some of Lafrance’s allegations “for the first time.”

“What she is choosing to say to the media and why, it’s difficult for me to comment on because there are processes in place and it’s not fair to her or the organization or the processes for me to comment.”

But Cook denied Lafrance is being followed by the service—“No, ridiculous comes to mind”—and said she will have the opportunity to present any evidence during her hearing May 17 at police headquarters, and during criminal proceedings.

Their own needs
He also states Lafrance did not inform Williams about any allegations against the service while he was investigating a harassment complaint she’d filed.

“She was provided numerous opportunities to speak to Inspector Williams in relation to the specifics of her complaint, and chose not to,” Cook said.

Lafrance’s attorney Andrew Perrin said his client declined to talk to Williams because “she’s not going to make statements against her interest, and she’s not about to talk to somebody who’s taking everything she says and twisting it to meet their own needs.”

Time to come home
Lafrance’s needs are what brought her back to North Bay, where she attended Chippewa Secondary School.

“I had had a great career in Toronto but the morale started to drop in Toronto and Liam’s adoption went through, and I had a lot of pressure from my mom, who wanted to have her grandson nearby,” Lafrance said.

“Then Cathi and I were together and just decided it was time to come home.”

This was the best,
The Ontario Provincial Police was actively recruiting in Toronto at the time, Lafrance said, but they weren’t giving LaFrance, who was off on parental leave, a quick enough answer.

“So I thought, well I’ll go put an application into North Bay and I was quite honest with them I said where I am now it’s whoever gives me an answer first,” Lafrance said.

Lafrance was hired as a senior constable—she would eventually be stripped of that rank during an internal arbitration hearing—and immediately made her impact with Project Fareplay.

“I did that project and then I ended up in uniform and went on patrol, which is fine because I always loved uniform, and I was driving around town thinking this was the best,” LaFrance said.

“In Toronto, you know, the attitude toward police was becoming a little bit negative, and here I was driving by and people were waving at me, and I was thinking ‘this is really nice,’ I was really happy.”

Treating me differently
That happiness lasted a relatively short time, Lafrance said, as “issues” started coming up with her supervisors.

“And I don’t know how it started or what it was, but they were treating me differently, and denying me time off,” Lafrance said.

Upon further investigation, Lafrance believed they were trying to do even more.

To find out what read Part Two of this story later today on