Officer charged with discreditable conduct for ‘Freedom Convoy’ support video faces first hearing, protest planned at Whitby HQ

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Published May 4, 2022 at 2:42 pm

Anyone with regional business to attend to may want to delay their trip to the Whitby headquarters, due to a protest scheduled in support of Durham Regional Police Constable Erin Howard who faces misconduct charges.

Howard posted a video recorded in her cruiser while she was in uniform in January to voice support for the Ottawa “Freedom Convoy” where she was set to speak.

The Convoy was still on its way to the capital, disrupting traffic along Hwy 401, when Howard posted her video calling protesters against COVID-19 health measures “true heroes.”

“I really want to give a big shout out to all the truckers. I think what you guys are doing is incredible,” Howard said, “You’re fighting for our rights and freedoms. Right now it feels like we’re a little bit at war and those rights and freedom are at stake.”

The Convoy began as a protest specifically against the federal vaccine mandate preventing unvaccinated truckers from crossing the United States border, a rule America also enforced, but evolved into a general grievance protest.

“The protesters have varying ideological grievances, with demands ranging from an end to all public health restrictions to the overthrow of the elected government,” said the federal government at the time.

Organizer Patrick King has a long history of voicing far-right conspiracy theories and white nationalist views. Tamara Lich, meanwhile, helped found the Maverick Party which calls for the secession of the Prairie provinces from Canada.

When the convoy arrived in Ottawa it quickly morphed into a full-blown occupation of the city that lasted three weeks. Protesters gridlocked the downtown core for much of that time, hosting parties and meals in the streets complete with hot tubs.

There were numerous cases of aggressive behavior reported by protestors. A statue of Terry Fox was vandalized with messages of convoy support. A woman danged on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and someone urinated on the War Memorial, both in the first day of demonstrations.

The occupation was eventually broken up after the Federal Government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time. This granted police, including some officers from DRPS sent for support, additional powers to break up the Convoy.

In all police arrested 122 people on 393 by February 21 including assault, assaulting a police officer, possession of a weapon and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, per Ottawa police. The convoy is estimated to have cost Ottawa $35 million in policing cost alone. Overall the city is estimated to have lost between $44 million and $200 million.

Howard was one of the speakers set to make an appearance during the Convoy to give an address on behalf of Police on Guard for Thee, a group of police officers protesting vaccine mandates and public health orders they feel are unconstitutional.

Hours after Howard’s video was posted it quickly gained steam in the media. Durham Police announced they were investigating shortly thereafter saying “The views expressed in that video do not reflect the views and opinions of DRPS.”

Weeks later Howard was charged with two counts of discreditable conduct, insubordination and breach of confidence. Her first disciplinary hearing on the charges is set for May 5 via Zoom. Police on Guard for Thee has organized a protest outside the Durham Regional Headquarters in Whitby in solidarity with Howard.

If found guilty of misconduct Howard faces a range of possible punishments from reprimand, pay forfeiture and termination.

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