By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence and may be disturbing to some people.
Janine Bechard is disappointed in the way the Chatham-Kent Police Service handled the Police Service Act hearing of her ex-husband Const. Darcy Lunn, after he pleaded guilty to charges of assault and uttering threats to cause bodily harm in court.
On Dec. 15, Lunn had a Police Service Act hearing where he also pleaded guilty to three counts of discreditable conduct and one count of neglect of duty. The charges, occurring as far back as 2009, included bringing his service-issued firearm home without proper paperwork, threatening to strike his wife and pushing her against the wall, and calling his wife at work and threatening to harm her.
In May, the court issued Lunn a suspended sentence and three years probation. He was suspended with pay until the conclusion of his Police Services Act hearing.
A Police Service Act hearing differs from a court hearing in that it only deals with the labour relations matters between employee and employer. Chatham-Kent Police Service Professional Standards Branch ruled to demote Lunn to the rank of fourth-class constable, resulting in a $30,000 pay loss.
“The conduct of Constable Darcy Lunn in these matters is completely at variance with the standards expected of members of the Chatham-Kent Police Service,” said hearing officer, Terence Kelly, retired deputy chief of the York Regional Police. “If not for the guilty plea; the officer’s recognition of his misconduct; and his desire to rehabilitate his reputation with management, I would consider a greater penalty.”
But Bechard disagrees with the decision.
“He can snap at any time,” she said.
She would have testified at his hearing, which was open to the public, except she didn’t know about it nor did the public.
Staff Sgt. Mike Pearce, with CKPS’ professional standards branch, said the failure to notify the public was an “oversight.”
“That’s directly my responsibility and oversight on my part that it wasn’t posted on our website. There was no direct intention for that to happen but it was an oversight that I take responsibility for, not the police service, me personally,” he said.
Instead, Bechard first heard that her ex-husband was back in uniform on the streets on Dec. 18 through a friend.
She is hoping public outcry to the Attorney General will prompt CKPS to take a second look at its decision that she described as “a slap on the wrist with his revolver back.”
According to Bechard, she started dating Lunn when they were 16 and were subsequently married for 23 years.
“But throughout the timeframe, even when we were dating, the abuse started and continued,” she said. “And then continued when Darcy became a police officer,” she said.
Police officers are not allowed to carry their guns home when off duty, which was the case for Lunn, Bechard said.
“He brought his gun home and threatened me with it when I questioned him about why he needed to bring it home. I was afraid of guns and didn’t like having it in the home when our son was young,” she said.
Bechard alleges that her ex-husband was diagnosed with a mental illness and at one point he stopped taking his medication while also on steroids.
Bechard decided to leave Lunn in 2015 after a fight.
It took Bechard until Oct. 31, 2019 to go to the police.
“And the reason for that is because throughout the 23 years. he continued to tell me that the police would not believe me,” she said.
“But then Oct. 31 hit, of 2019, and my son, now a young man, was trying to make sense of everything. And the pain that he has endured is just so difficult for a mother to watch,” she said. “And he’s the reason why I called the police because I wasn’t going to come forward. But I wanted them to know that my son needed help. I was hoping that they might be able to assist in some way with his anger and his depression.”
Bechard called the Corunna-Petrolia detachment of the OPP and said the officer who responded to the call built enough trust to make her feel comfortable going ahead with the statement. To this day, the OPP continues to check on the wellbeing of Bechard and her son, she said.
“This is where I’m frustrated, I haven’t received any support from the Chatham-Kent police,” Bechard said. “They had the file from the OPP and from the criminal sentencing, so they know all of the details, yet they didn’t put me or my son’s safety first; they didn’t contact us.”
Since Bechard heard the news from her friend that Lunn was back on the streets, she has felt unsafe.
Bechard said she is also hurt no one reached out to her throughout the process and that many attempts to speak to C-K Police Chief Gary Conn went unaddressed until a few days ago, after CKPS heard she had gone to a local media outlet. Bechard said she sent multiple requests to speak to the chief dating back to August.
“I’m also hurt that no one reached out to me until (Wednesday) morning only because they found out that I was going to be using my voice to try and make a difference,” she said. “In my mind it was just trying to check the box off, so that they can say that they did contact me. But it was after the fact, so it’s too late.”
Bechard said when she finally spoke to Conn, she was told the Police Service Act hearing was an internal situation and she should not be privy to that information anyhow.
“That was really a slap in the face by basically saying ‘none of your business’ even though it has everything to do with me, and my son, and our safety,” Bechard said.
Conn also refused to let Bechard know if there were mechanisms in place to ensure that Lunn’s mental state was being checked on, she added.
Conn did not return a request for comment by The Chatham Voice regarding Bechard’s concerns. Instead, Pearce contacted the newspaper.
When a press release on Lunn’s Police Service Act hearing was issued, Conn stated that Lunn’s actions were “unfortunate and disturbing.”
He added via the press release, “I respect the Hearing Officer’s decision and penalty imposed given that he is the Trier-of-fact, having to take into consideration and weigh all the aggravating and mitigating factors associated to this matter. Consequently, we have and will continue to hold our members responsible for their actions.”