‘Disgusted and hurt’ after chief’s call about domestic abuse

Janine Bechard

Heather Wright/The Independent

A Corunna woman says a call with Chatham-Kent’s police chief did nothing to explain why her ex-husband is back on the beat with a gun.

Darcy Lunn plead guilty in a domestic violence case to assault and uttering threats in May. He also plead guilty to three Police Service Act charges in December and was back on the job three days later carrying the same service revolver he used to threaten her and her son.

Lunn was demoted to fourth class constable and will lose about $30,000 per year gross pay, which the agreed statement of facts says works out to about $14,764 net pay over the two years of demotion.

His ex-wife – the victim of his abuse – Janine Bechard was disappointed she wasn’t told Lunn would be entering a plea. She had expected to testify at a hearing. She also asked the investigating officer four times to speak to the Chief, Gary Conn, about the incidents but until last week – after she criticized the decision in The Herald – she had not heard from him.

Bechard says the call from Conn did nothing to change her mind about how the Chatham-Kent Police Service deal with officers.

“The very first thing he told me was he was sorry, to me and my son for what we’ve gone through, and that we’re still part of the Chatham-Kent family. I said I would never treat a family member the way that your department has treated me and my son,” she recounts.

“In fact, you left us in the dark. And you let us find out about the horrible person who inflicted harm on us that he actually got the very same gun back in his hands that he threatened us with. So, I said, I’m very disgusted and hurt by your department.”
Bechard adds Conn implied if Lunn would have plead guilty to more substantial charges, the Police Act hearing might have imposed a stiffer penalty. The only other penalty available would be for Lunn to have resigned or been fired.

Bechard also believes Lunn wasn’t fired because of his family ties to the department.

Bechard says his sister is an exemplary officer and his father was the chief of police in Wallaceburg before amalgamation.

The Independent has made repeated, daily, requests for an interview with Chief Conn about Bechard’s allegations. Sgt. Michael Pearce, the manager of professional standards for the department, said the chief was simply too busy to answer media questions.

Pearce says the chief takes the Lunn case seriously, noting he filed a chief’s complaint which triggered the Police Service Act hearing. Conn also hired a third-party lawyer to represent CKPS and hired an independent hearing officer.

Pearce refutes Bechard’s concerns about Lunn’s connections within the department. “I think someone’s family status is irrelevant.

“The Chatham-Kent Police Service condemns domestic violence and it’s particularly troubling when a police officer perpetuates that violence. And certainly his reputation is damaged and our reputation is damaged. But we’re not trying to protect him,” Pearce says.

“The judge in the criminal proceedings and the hearings officer both believe there’s an ability to rehabilitate.”

Justice Deborah Austin in her sentencing, did not talk about returning to police work, but did express counseling was necessary for him to improve his mental health – he suffers from depression – and for rehabilitation in the workplace.

The executive director of the Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre also voiced concern that the department had not been clear on what steps Lunn may have taken to understand what led to the 10 years of abuse he admitted to in court.

The Agreed Statement of Facts submitted in the Police Act hearing notes Lunn had taken a domestic violence course but had never apologized to his victims.

Also omitted from the statement of facts were two incidents which would not have painted Lunn in a favourable light – an investigation by Lambton OPP after referees at the Mooretown arena called police because of the uniformed officer’s behaviour and the fact Lunn faced a Police Act hearing in 2015 after a citizen complained about the department’s search methods.

There were never any charges from the OPP investigation and Lunn was cleared in the 2015 Police Act hearing. Pearce says neither is relevant to the 2020 Police Act hearing.

The sergeant also took responsibility for lack of public notification about the hearing. Lunn’s plea should have been open to the public, however the notification did not appear on the service’s website.

Pearce says it was his oversight.

Bechard had been asked to prepare to testify but was not told a plea deal had been arranged to be heard Dec. 15.

It all leaves Bechard with hard feelings even with a call from the chief.

She says she was left with the impression Chief Conn wanted to be sure she knew the Police Act sentence wasn’t his “fault.

“It was a waste of my time, and really made me feel more frustrated and more disappointed in the department.”

The Corunna woman has been buoyed by public support on social media and has been encouraging people to contact the Solicitor General to ask the case be reviewed.

“It’s just outstanding, how many people have reached out and how many women have reached out and, thanked me for coming forward and sharing my story and that it has given them a voice, and that they’re going through difficult times right now in their relationships, and it’s helped them.

“It feels really good to know that I, in some way, whether it’s smaller or large, I’ve made some sort of a difference in their lives.”