Ex-cop seeks justice on his son’s behalf

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More than two years after his son Joe was brutally beaten, Albert Covermaker is still seeking justice, if not from the perpetrators, at least from police.

The Thamesville man’s quest received a boost this week when the Chatham-Kent Police Services Board agreed to hold a disciplinary hearing into how the CKPS investigated the incident.

Const. Kelly Helbin, Staff Sgt. Keith Myers and Sgt. Steve Misik will face a Police Service Act hearing as per the recommendation of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).

The OIPRD exists, “ to make sure that public complaints against police in Ontario are dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively” according to its website.

In his report, OIPRD Director Gerry McNeilly concluded that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Const. Helbin failed to conduct a proper investigation and that her superiors failed to properly supervise the investigation.

Covermaker, an Ontario Provincial Police retiree with more than a quarter century of service, filed a complaint with the OIRPD after being frustrated with a lack of action from local police.

“My son received a concussion, a broken nose, other broken sinus bones, cuts, bruises and a boot print on his back where they stomped him,” he said of the attack which took place on his birthday June 23, 2012.

“I got a call at 4 a.m. that I have to go to the hospital and I couldn’t believe what I saw,” he said. “It wasn’t my son I was looking at, he was so badly beaten.”

The attack only stopped when a resident opened her window and yelled.

“That woman may have saved my son’s life,” Covermaker said. “If she hadn’t made them stop, they might have killed him.”

Covermaker showed photos of his son the night he went to the hospital. The results of the beating are so severe The Chatham Voice has chosen not to publish them.

Covermaker said he was impressed with the extent of the OIPRD investigation.

“I had no idea what was going to happen, if the office was serious or not,” he said. “They interviewed about a dozen people.”

As a police veteran, Covermaker said, “The last thing I want to do is complain about police,” but from his viewpoint there is no excuse for the lack of a thorough investigation.

“There was clear evidence that night pointing to the other people involved,” he said. “I’ll let the system take its course but what the OIRPD found doesn’t leave any doubt in my mind about what needs to happen.”

Before contacting the OIRPD, Covermaker said he spoke with a number of high-ranking police officials in Chatham, some of whom “I used to have coffee with when they were constables,” but didn’t get any satisfaction.

“I was told by the Crown (Crown Attorney’s office) that they were trying to get more information and didn’t have any luck, so they had no choice but not to proceed,” he said. “I even asked my MPP, Monte McNaughton, to see what he could find out and he told me police wouldn’t even return his calls.”

When the OIRPD issued its recommendation, it was technically one day past the statutory six-month time limit, so the Police Services Board had to agree to an extension.

In his report to the board, Deputy Chief Gary Conn cited a number of factors in the delay, but agreed with the OIRPD that the matter should proceed, a recommendation that was unanimously approved by the board.

Covermaker said his son has moved on from the incident and no longer lives in Chatham-Kent.  Although his son was an adult when the incident took place, he felt the need to stay involved.

“If a father can’t fight for his son, who can?”

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