Toronto-area police officer temporarily demoted after receiving peace bond on assault charges, ‘openly’ mocking civilian with mental health issues

A Toronto-area police officer has been temporarily demoted after signing a peace bond over domestic assault allegations and admitting he mocked a man in custody who was suffering from mental health issues.

Peel Regional Police. Pawandeep Sandhu was demoted to the rank of police constable third class for six months after pleading guilty to four counts of dishonorable conduct and one count of breach of trust at a professional disciplinary hearing in January.

Sandhu has worked in the PRP since 2016 and, at the time of the hearing, held the rank of police constable first class. The allegations against Sandhu arise from conduct that occurred both on and off duty over a three-year period between 2018 and 2021, according to court filings.

Two of the five counts of misconduct were the result of criminal charges brought against Sandhu in 2021 after two separate altercations with a woman referred to only as ‘AA’ in the decision.

During those disputes, Sandhu is alleged to have strangled and threatened the woman, with whom he told the court he had been romantically involved for several years. In 2022 he accepted a two-and-a-half-year peace bond and criminal charges were dropped.

The third misconduct charge arose from an incident in 2020 in which Sandhu was found to have “mocked” a private citizen during a mental health detention. On July 28, Sandhu sent a text message and a video clip to AA showing a man who had a misspelled tattoo.

“You don’t even know how to spell humble, if you’re going to get a tattoo, idiot, make sure you know how to spell humble,” Sandhu said in the video clip, according to the decision.

Upon receiving him, AA recognized the man in custody as her neighbor, who she said was struggling with mental health issues.

About a year later, Sandhu sent another text message to AA, this time showing confidential evidence in a PRP investigation: a photograph of a silver and black pistol confiscated during the officer’s police duties, the court found.

Finally, the court heard that in 2021, Sandhu attempted to use his police badge to circumvent COVID-19 vaccination requirements after he was denied entry to a hotel in York Region.

At the hearing, prosecutor Keegan Soles argued that Sandhu’s conduct was aggravated by the involvement of criminal assault allegations.

“Aggressive behavior in the domestic or any other context by a police officer contravenes the oath he or she has taken to fulfill these legal duties,” the decision reads. “Violent behavior is unacceptable in society and domestic assault is considered particularly abhorrent. As such, this should be considered serious misconduct.”

Soles also called Sandhu’s decision to “openly mock” and record a member of the public in the midst of a mental health crisis “highly dishonorable.”

Sandhu’s lawyers acknowledged that there is “no excuse” for the officer’s conduct, but argued that he was personally struggling at the time.

In Sandhu’s defense, attorneys highlighted several previous positive service performance evaluations, including two commendations for his role in the recovery of a stolen truck trailer and during a shooting investigation. They also noted a history of volunteer work in the community.

Sandhu’s lawyers also reminded the court that the criminal charges filed against him were eventually withdrawn in lieu of a peace bond.

“As such, there was no admission of criminality or aggressive behaviour,” they stated.

According to the decision, Sandhu was under the impression that the nature of the assault allegations would “remain confidential” and did not expect them to come to light during the disciplinary proceedings. He described the relationship and the period of time it spanned as “tumultuous.”

In a direct address to the court, Sandu said he took responsibility for his actions.

“Mistakes were made. Accountability is key and that’s what I’m here for today,” Sandhu said. “I plead guilty and understand the charges that are being brought against me.”

The official also spoke of his desire to return to work.

“Lastly, I would like to say that the passion is still there… it has not gone away. I really want to return soon. I respect her decision. I appreciate and appreciate that you are taking my return into consideration. “I’m excited to get back and do the work I love,” she said.

Saliba acknowledged Sandhu’s guilty plea and apology, and concluded that rehabilitation was a possibility for the officer “if he learns from this experience, returns to work and commits to adhering to service policies.”

“You can also take advantage of any training and support that is available,” he continued.

Sandhu’s demotion took effect on January 31.

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