Lawsuit accuses police of doughnut-based favouritism

The suggestion that police officers are beholden to the store management because of a predilection for doughnuts or because patrol officers accept free coffee is part of a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service two constables and Tim Hortons doughnuts that seeks $23-million in damages.

National Post
November 16, 2000

Lawsuit accuses police of doughnut-based favouritism
Adrian Humphreys

Toronto police officers are accused of having a conflict of in a theft investigation because the complainant in the case is a doughnut shop owner.

The suggestion that police officers are beholden to the store management because of a predilection for doughnuts or because patrol officers accept free coffee is part of a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Service two constables and Tim Hortons doughnuts — a company co-founded by a police officer – that seeks $23-million in damages.

The lawsuit arose over the firing last summer of Charlene Walsh from her job as a drive-through clerk at a Tim Hortons outlet in Etobicoke.

Ms. Walsh, then seven months pregnant, was accused of diverting $10 or less from the store's cash register into her tip cup, confronted by store officials and turned over to police, her lawsuit says.

She was charged with theft and fired.

When the case came to court, however, the judge dismissed the charge without requiring any evidence from the defence, said Ernest Guiste, Ms. Walsh's lawyer.

The lawsuit alleges the franchise operators fabricated the allegation so Ms. Walsh could be fired rather than have her take paid maternity leave. It also claims the police officers failed to be impartial in their investigation because of a connection to the doughnut shop. "Metro's finest … should have been able to see quite clearly that there was no basis for charging her and prosecuting her," said Mr. Guiste.

"They are in a conflict of interest because [police officers] are probably getting free doughnuts. They do it a lot. When you take free food from doughnut shops you have a tendency to establish a relationship with the owners and when you become friends with the owners and they want to do this type of business they will call upon you and you will comply."

The parties being sued have not yet filed a statement of defence, but deny the allegations. Named in the suit are TDL Group, which is Tim Hortons parent company, the store franchise owner, two store employees and Constables Andrew May and Jim Stravrakis.

Constable Jack Ritchie, vice-president of the Toronto Police Association, which represents the city's rank-and-file officers, said the portrayal of police in the lawsuit is laughable. "That stereotype — that police officers are always eating doughnuts — is not accurate. Police officers are in excellent condition and have to be in good shape to do our job. I don't think most police officers eat doughnuts. It's the coffee, it's the caffeine, and coffee shops are open 24 hours," he said.

Sergeant Jim Muscat, a spokesman for the Toronto Police Service, said officers do not accept freebies. "We offer to pay for all coffee and doughnuts," he said.

Brigitte Regenscheit, owner of the franchise where Ms. Walsh worked, said her shop is a private franchise and she can give coffee to whomever she pleases — but it has nothing to do with currying favour with police.

"If you walk into my store and I decide to give you a free coffee, who is anyone to question me? Whether you are police or just a nice guy."


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