Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Const. Joe Smyth has been charged with obstruction of justice as a result of an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).
The charge relates to an incident involving a 2017 traffic stop.
After the ASIRT announcement, RNC Police Chief Joe Boland said in a statement that Smyth has been suspended without pay until further notice. The RNC’s professional standards section will carry out a separate investigation into the officer’s actions following the conclusion of all court proceedings, he said.
“I want to assure the public that misconduct by any RNC police officer is not acceptable and will not be tolerated within this police service. I will continue to hold any officer who does not represent our values accountable for their actions. As chief I am very proud of the hardworking women and men of the RNC and believe that our employees embody our vision and values while serving the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Boland said.
Smyth was released on a promise to appear on Aug. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in the provincial court in St. John’s.
Smyth’s lawyer Jerome Kennedy said Smyth, after having given his side of the incident to ASIRT, is disappointed and now that it’s before the court, they will request an early trial date.
“My client is looking forward to defending himself in court. We would prefer there was no charge but he has to deal with. He is looking forward to his day in court and to be exonerated,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said there is no allegation of physical violence or anything like that.
“He is adamant that he did not obstruct justice in any way,” Kennedy said.
“Unfortunately, once a charge is laid, the only way to fight the charge is by going to trial…. The situation is a very difficult one for Constable Smyth and that is one of the reasons he wants to get an early trial.”
ASIRT is a civilian-led police oversight agency that investigates incidents involving police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct and was tasked with an investigation into the conduct of an RNC member in November 2017.
According to its news release, ASIRT conducted a thorough, independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
"Based on a review of the evidence, it was the position of ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson, QC, that the evidence was capable of providing reasonable grounds to believe that an offence(s) had been committed. The complete investigative file was forwarded to the office of the director of public prosecutions in Newfoundland and Labrador for an opinion on whether the evidence would meet the standard for prosecution. After reviewing the investigation and the completed Crown opinion, Ms. Hughson determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe an offence was committed and that the officer would be charge," ASIRT said in its news release.
"Today, ASIRT arrested and charged Smyth with one count of obstruction of justice. The charge relates to contact between Smyth and a member of the public during a traffic stop conducted on May 12, 2017, that resulted in a traffic violation ticket being issued for an offence that did not occur. The violation ticket and other related tickets were ultimately withdrawn by the Crown." Boland in his statement said that in October 2017, the RNC was contacted by the Crown attorney’s office in St. John’s regarding an issue with the traffic safety stop central to the ASIRT investigation.
“At that time, no public complaint or criminal complaint had been made in relation to this incident. Based on the evidence that was provided to the RNC as well as the circumstances and seriousness of the allegations against the officer, I requested that the Department of Justice and Public Safety engage an outside agency to conduct a thorough and non-biased investigation into the actions of the officer involved," Boland said in the statement.
The Department of Justice and Public Safety referred the matter over to ASIRT and Smyth at that time was placed on adminstrative duty pending the outcome of that criminal investigation. In early November, the RNC also received a public complaint against the same officer from the individual involved in this traffic stop.
When ASIRT was tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct, it would not release the name of the complainant or subject officer during its investigation, but it was well known and reported by media the officer was Smyth.
ASIRT will not comment further as the matter is before the courts.
Smyth is the RNC officer who shot and killed Donald Dunphy on Easter Sunday 2015. Smyth, a member of the premier's protective detail at the time, had visited Dunphy's home in Mitchell's Brook to discuss tweets Dunphy had sent out that mentioned government members.
The conversation between Smyth and Dunphy became heated and, Smyth has said, Dunphy pointed a gun at him.
ASIRT had reviewed the RCMP investigation into the Dunphy shooting. The RCMP investigation in that case found that available evidence at the scene supported Smyth's version of events and that appropriate force was used and no charges were warranted. ASIRT noted what it described as some minor shortcomings in the RCMP investigation, but none that seriously undermined the investigation and it ultimately supported the RCMP's conclusion.
Dunphy's death was the subject of an inquiry, which lasted several months and concluded earlier this year.