A Toronto police officer has refused to perform guard duty outside the Morgentaler clinic and has been charged by his superiors with committing an offence under the Police Act. Constable David Packer, 35 is a father of five and a ten year veteran of the force. Two years ago he was decorated by the Police Department for bravery in rescuing a three-month old child from a burning building. Now he is charged with “failing to obey a lawful order,” which is considered a “major” office under the Police Act. The penalties which may be imposed on Packer range from a reprimand to dismissal from the police force.

Matter of conscience

The charge arose from Packer’s actions on the afternoon of April 8th, 1987, when he was scheduled to go on patrol outside the abortuary. Packer had been on guard outside the abortuary on several other occasions usually late at night when it was closed. On the one occasion he drew day duty, he “felt sick” about guarding a facility where unborn children are killed. He resolved never to serve the function of guard at the abortuary again.

Police guards

When Constable Packer found that he was slated again for abortuary duty, he informed his superiors that in good conscience, he could not do the job. “I would not guard a place that was killing newborn babies.” Packer later told reporters, “so I cannot guard a place where pre-born babies are killed,” He explained his conviction to his superior officers, Staff Sergeant Alan Griffiths and Superintendent John Getty. He explained to them that he did not consider the order to be a lawful one because the abortuary itself is operating outside the law. He then refused to obey the order. His superiors then charged him with committing an offence. The charge will be heard by a police tribunal which is empowered to discipline police officers. Any decision made by the tribunal can be appealed to the Toronto Police Commission and then to the Ontario Police Commission and from there to the courts. In what could be a drawn-out matter, Packer is receiving support from the Metropolitan Police Association. The Association President Paul Walter has stated publicly that the Association will provide Packer with legal counsel and appeal any decision against the officer to the courts if necessary. “Common sense should prevail in this case” said Walter.

Police protection

Packer had a preliminary appearance on May 14 and appears before the tribunal again on July 7. However it is still not certain when the actual hearing into the charge will be held. Meanwhile, Packer continues to perform his full time police duties.

As a result of Packer’s actions, attention is once again focused on the role of the Toronto police in the continued operation of the Morgentaler abortuary. The police force provides two officers, one stationed in front of the abortuary. The police force provides two officers, one stationed in front of the abortuary and one stationed in the back, throughout business hours. During the first year of its illegal operation, the abortuary was provided with 24 hour a day protection

The provision of police guards outside the abortuary has offended a number of people including Provincial Court Judge Arthur Meen. In his September, 1985 ruling on a case involving 14 pro-life protestors, Judge Meen stated: “The irony of this entire matter is that, on the one had we have a clinic performing abortions openly, blatantly and outside the law, yet on the other hand all the while enjoying police protection which enabled them to carry on these activities.”