A Toronto police officer who was still collecting paycheques a year after the force tried to fire him — for what a hearing officer dubbed a period of “egregious” misconduct — has resigned.
Former constable Matthew Brewer — whose list of misconducts included following his spouse with a handgun while he was in a “state of crisis,” pepper spraying a handcuffed suspect in the back of a police cruiser, as well as impaired driving and cursing at a staff sergeant he believed was sleeping with his common law partner — is no longer being paid as of Tuesday, Toronto police say.
Hearing officer Supt. Riyaz Hussein, who is now facing impaired driving charges of his own, originally ordered in July 2021 that Brewer be fired unless he resigned. Brewer appealed that decision, so he continued to be suspended with pay until this month, per provincial law.
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission threw out Brewer’s appeal on Aug. 8.
“The Toronto Police Service expects the highest standards of conduct from all its officers and staff, and holds them to account through disciplinary proceedings,” spokesperson Stephanie Sayer said in an email statement.
“It was the Hearing Officer’s view that Constable Brewer’s behaviour fell below this standard and he should no longer be able to serve and protect Toronto’s communities.”
Documents from disciplinary hearings show Brewer had been dealing with both post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, something David Butt, Brewer’s lawyer, said is emblematic of the “tremendous toll” policing took on his client.
“These kinds of illnesses and these kinds of struggles are endemic to policing, to front-line responders,” Butt told CBC News.
He said Brewer has been sober for over three years, and that it is disappointing that a “punitive approach” won out in this case over a “pro-health and pro-wellness approach.”
Butt also said it is ironic the case’s hearing officer is facing his own criminal charges for impaired driving.
Hussein is currently performing administrative duties pending the results of his own criminal and disciplinary hearings.
Multiple instances of misconduct
Hearing documents reviewed by CBC News lay out several criminal and internal discipline charges Brewer has faced in recent years.
The earliest is from Dec. 1, 2016. That’s when, the documents say, Brewer was “in a state of crisis” and “under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs” when he brought a handgun into the room where his spouse was sleeping. He then followed her through the home with it, before putting it in his mouth and later firing it into the air when he was outside the residence.
He was later criminally convicted of common nuisance and unauthorized possession of a firearm, and received a suspended sentence with probation, alongside the forfeiture of five day’s pay through the internal discipline process.
Another count of discreditable conduct stemmed from an arrest in Toronto in September 2016. Brewer, the documents say, had pursued a man who stabbed a restaurant patron before violently resisting arrest.
After Brewer and his partner got the man into their police cruiser, the suspect pushed at the back door with his legs. Brewer then swore at the man and sprayed him with pepper spray, according to documents.
At the man’s criminal trial, the Crown conceded the use of pepper spray amounted to excessive force, and the judge agreed, staying charges against the accused for assaulting the arresting officers.
Another count of discreditable conduct stemmed from a drunk driving crash in nearby Durham, Ont. on May 5, 2019. Hearing documents say there had been a “serious car accident,” and Brewer was one of the drivers.
Brewer was “rude and belligerent to first responders at the scene” who observed him in a “noticeable state of impairment,” which was later confirmed by breath tests, the documents say. He later pleaded guilty to dangerous and impaired driving, and received probation, a fine and a driving prohibition.
‘Unfit to perform his duties’
Yet another instance included in the disciplinary process stemmed from a phone conversation and text messages Brewer had with a Toronto police staff sergeant in July 2018.
“[Brewer] had information that caused him to believe the staff sergeant had been intimate with his common law partner,” hearing documents read, and that some of the “inappropriate” things Brewer said included calling the other officer “a f–king staff sergeant whose ass I’m gonna kick.”
In his initial ruling, Hussein said Brewer showed “a pattern of misconduct” that was “egregious.”
“Brewer is unfit to perform his duties in the capacity of a police officer and his usefulness to the Toronto Police Service and the community has been annulled,’ Hussein wrote.
Butt, Brewer’s lawyer, said his client has “fought an exemplary fight,” given his PTSD and addiction issues, and is now in a better place when it comes to his health. He said people should try to understand that police officers who “give until it hurts” often do not have a straight line to recovery.
“We can’t punish our way out of this problem,” Butt said.