Trial begins for Winnipeg police officer accused of fraud, obstruction of justice

A Winnipeg police officer is in court, facing charges for allegedly altering information in a police database after he was issued a speeding ticket in October 2019.

On Wednesday, Provincial Judge Cindy Sholdice heard from first witnesses in the trial of Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy. The Winnipeg police officer has been charged with unauthorized use of a computer, fraud and obstruction of justice. Cassidy has pleaded not guilty.

Const. Steve Leroux, who had been with the Winnipeg Police Service for 20 years, was among those called as a witness Wednesday. He said at the time, he had been working in the photo radar unit, which Cassidy was in charge of.

On Oct. 1, 2019, he testified the unit went out for breakfast as a team-building exercise, with Cassidy driving the group in his personal mini van.

On the way back, Leroux said they drove by a photo radar van.

"Sean commented to the effect that 'I think I got flashed' or something like that—and that is when I looked back and I saw a van," he said.

He told the court Cassidy turned around and pulled up by the van and spoke to the driver.

"He asked the driver if he got a ticket," Leroux said.

"It did not appear that Patrol Sgt. Cassidy was attempting to have a secret conversation with the operator of that photo enforcement vehicle?" defence counsel Lisa LaBossiere asked in her cross-examination of Leroux.

"No, I was under the impression he was just trying to find out if he got a ticket or not," Leroux responded.

Ryan Oswald, the director of operations for Conduent Business Services Canada—a company contracted by the city to run the photo enforcement program—said he was told later that day that Cassidy had approached the driver about the ticket.

He said after hearing this, he spoke with a police member from the unit and Sharon MacInnes, Conduent's operations manager at the time.

"I couldn't find the ticket for that particular licence plate. So I had to search for it," MacInnes testified.

She said she found the ticket had automatically been rejected because the licence plate was designated as being an emergency vehicle.

"The fact that it wasn't an emergency vehicle led me to think that it might be a covert vehicle," MacInnes said. "So I looked in the covert list of plates and saw the plate was entered into that list on the date of the violation."

Oswald testified the covert list of plates—also called the special plates list—is a list of emergency and undercover vehicles exempt from photo radar and red light cameras. He said tickets issued to licence plates on this list are automatically rejected.

Oswald said, with permission from a Winnipeg police member, they searched the list and found the licence plate for Cassidy's van had been added to the system by Cassidy's user account the same day the ticket was first issued.

"Ultimately the decision was to us that we should move that violation back into the processing cycle and start fresh, which we did," Oswald said.

The court heard a $259 ticket for speeding in a school zone was then issued to Cassidy.

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.