Fallout from tow truck turf war prompts new rules for OPP officers

The Ontario Provincial Police is introducing new checks and balances for its members ordering tow truck services in the wake of an investigation that charged four officers with taking secret commissions and breach of trust.

The move comes amid a push to rid Ontario’s tow truck industry of criminality that has seen shootings, arsons, assaults and even a homicide, said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

“We’ve seen a lot of turf war battles between competing tow truck companies. Those put the community and the public at risk,” Schmidt told CTV News Toronto.

Under the new rules, each tow truck company must apply to the OPP to be considered, and must be approved by a local commander. Each year the company must provide its ownership, registration, licence, vehicle, equipment, and insurance, and submit its principals to a criminal history background check.

A company can also be removed if it fails to pass the requirements. The applications must be submitted by Nov. 1, 2021.

Each tow request must be documented and each officer can only use a company once per shift.

“That’s for our own internal accountability as well, to make sure there is no favouritism being displayed,” Schmidt said.

Favouritism appeared to be an issue when the OPP announced charges against four officers earlier this year, accused of breach of trust and taking secret commissions.

Another man, who appeared as a driver on a popular TV show, was also charged with aiding and abetting breach of trust and secret commissions.

The four officers are slated to appear at a Finch Street courthouse in Toronto in October. One of them, Simon Bridle, is also facing a charge of obtaining sexual services for consideration. Court staff say he’s elected to face a jury at Superior Court in Newmarket.

The measures are on top of a pilot program that aimed to do something similar on provincial highways through the Greater Toronto Area. Those rules would limit one company for each of four prescribed zones.

Joey Gagne, the president of Abrams Towing, said the changes won’t affect companies like his that are already registered and operate above board. But they will cause problems for operations that aren’t transparent about how they operate, he said.

“Quite frankly, I would like to see more, but it’s not a bad first step. It’s a measured approach. Anything is better than what we have now,” he said.

Schmidt says the OPP will remain vigilant.

“There have been investigations, there continue to be ongoing investigations into inappropriate conduct and that’s why this system will hold everyone accountable,” he said.

A Toronto police constable also faces a raft of charges related to receiving payments and kickbacks, providing a police radio to tow truck drivers, and is accused in a series of frauds involving insurance claims and car crashes that were allegedly staged.