A female Toronto police officer felt compelled to pretend she was in a lesbian relationship to fend off the advances of her commander, according to an affidavit filed in advance of a police tribunal hearing that opened Tuesday in secret.
Staff Insp. Steve Izzett former head of the force’s Intelligence Division, is charged with nine counts of misconduct under the Police Services Act, including allegedly sexually harassing the female officer from April 2007 to September 2008. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
David Butt, the lawyer for the female officer, asked retired Superior Court Justice Keith Hoilett to impose a ban on the publication of her identity or anything that could identify her. The application was opposed by Ryder Gilliland, representing the Toronto Star, who argued Hoilett did not have jurisdiction to impose such a ban. Hoilett ordered the proceedings be held in secret until he makes a ruling.
However, affidavits and other documents filed with the tribunal by the prosecution in advance of the hearing allege the female officer complained to superiors because she felt “picked on” by Izzett, 47, after spurning his invitations to go out with him.
“Izzett asked her out repeatedly telling her that they were meant to be together. She told him she wasn’t interested but his advances continued,” according to internal police correspondence. The advances included “hugging her and saying such things as ‘come on give me a hug.’”
Lead investigator Tony Smith told Izzett during one interview, reading from his own notes summarizing what the female officer told him, that she estimated Izzett hugged her fewer than ten times.
“All of the personal conversation is unwanted and she tells him so on numerous occasion — occasions,” Smith said. “It gets to the point where she tells the staff inspector that she’s in a relationship with another woman and hopes that he will leave her alone. Instead he sees this as another challenge. He said “that’s just an experiment. You’re going to be with me,” transcripts of the interview with Izzett show.
After telling Izzett she was in a same-sex relationship, the female officer said Izzett wrote her a letter, a copy of which has been filed in support of the prosecution’s case. Called “The Great Nature-Nurture Debate,” the 16-page document includes various explanations for homosexuality cobbled together “from recent secular professional literature” and bookended by deeply personal comments.
“You have awakened the giant within,” reads the final paragraph. “I will exhibit patience and understanding as I know that the object of my desire is worthy and deserving of this.”
After 25 years with the service, almost half of them in leadership roles, Izzett was suspended with pay on Sept. 19, 2008. At the time of his suspension, he was in line to be promoted to superintendent. He served as head of the Intelligence Division from December 2005 to September 2008.
The documents also show that, during an interview with investigators, Izzett said the female underling had phoned him repeatedly, and that it was he who scorned her advances, after she expressed having “strong feelings” and she “wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off me.”
“I don’t wanna compromise my position as your boss and I would not cheat on my wife,” Izzett said he told her.
During another interview, lead investigator Smith asked Izzett if he had any “romantic inclinations towards this woman,” transcripts show.
At first, Izzett replied: “I would say mutually that we were exploring feelings for one another . . . ,” before saying “no.”
Izzett acknowledged to Smith that he composed the letter, describing it as a “cut ‘n’ paste from the Internet” that he gave to the female complainant on a USB drive, but only after she requested it.
“As the unit commander of Intelligence and as her boss, do you feel that providing her with this document is an appropriate thing to do, in your position,” Smith asked during the Feb. 2009 interview, the transcript indicates.
“I’ve said before,” Izzett responded, “I engaged in discussion that was bad judgment on . . . my part.”