'A noble cause': Windsor police officer defends his decision to donate to Freedom Convoy
Const. Michael Jason Brisco is charged with discreditable conduct for donating $50 to the Freedom Convoy while on unpaid leave of absence for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
A Police Services Act hearing has been going on since Monday into whether or not Brisco’s donation goes against the Windsor Police Service (WPS) mission, values and vision.
Decision to not get a vaccine
After he learned WPS was developing a mandatory vaccine policy Brisco said he did his own research into the vaccines and even attended an information session offered by the service.
Brisco testified Wednesday that he is not a so-called “anti-vaxxer,” and said he just did not want an MRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
“I was being forced to make a choice between my job and a medical treatment I did not want,” Brisco said. “You have a right about what you put in your body. The government can’t touch that.”
Brisco was told “natural immunity” would not be sufficient exemption from the WPS policy, according to Bryce Chandler, legal counsel and director of human resources for the service.
Brisco was put on unpaid leave on Nov. 26, 2021 when the policy came into effect and he could not provide proof of vaccination.
Start of unpaid leave
“I was worried,” Brisco testified. “I didn’t know if this [leave of absence] was going to become permanent.”
Brisco said this unpaid leave was very different from a parental leave he took earlier in his career.
At that time, he was able to keep his work-issued cell phone and computer, as well as his weapons and warrant card. Brisco testified when he went on unpaid leave all of those things were taken from him.
“I still don’t understand why they took my computer,” he said Wednesday.
There was also a misunderstanding between Brisco and Chandler about how he would be compensated if he was needed to go to court to testify during the leave.
Brisco said he thought he would be paid like a civilian, earning $50 for every day he was in court.
Chandler admitted he should have made it clear to Brisco the compensation would be accrued as overtime to be taken when his leave was over, as per the forces’ collective agreement.
For all these reasons, Brisco said he didn’t consider himself an employee of the WPS when he made a donation.
The timing of the donation
Brisco said the Ottawa court injunction, granted on Feb. 7th, halting the horn honking but allowing peaceful protest “validated” his opinion that it was not illegal in any way.
Then he saw a post on website “Rumble” of Tamara Lich (organizer of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa) asking for donations for truckers to be made through “Give Send Go.”
Evidence heard the $50 donation was made in the early morning hours of Feb. 8th, 2022, four days after it had been declared illegal by then Ottawa Chief of Police Peter Sloly.
It also coincided with the start of the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor.
“I support the right to protest but I don’t believe blocking critical infrastructure is right,” Brisco said.
He told hearing adjudicator, Morris Elbers, he did not know about the bridge blockade at the time of the donation and that he intended the money to go only to the demonstrators in Ottawa.
Brisco further said he does not believe the bridge blockade was in any way connected to the Freedom Convoy demonstration in the nations’ capital.
Shane Miles, Brisco’s lawyer asked outright: “Do you believe your donation would have reflected poorly on you?”
“No.” Brisco said. “I think it would have reflected positively on me. I thought it was a noble cause, protecting charter rights.”
More on Chandler evidence
When drafting their COVID-19 vaccination policy, Chandler said they did consider work exemptions to allow officers to work from home but ultimately “deemed it unsuitable” to properly perform their role in protecting the community.
Chandler said at no time was Brisco ever facing termination.
His status, according to Chandler, was “a police officer who was on a leave of absence.”
When the unpaid leave of absence started, Brisco had to hand in his use of force weapons and any corporate-issued electronics.
He kept his uniforms, badge and his swipe card for headquarters, but Chandler admitted it was deactivated on Nov. 26.
Chandler testified when officers are sworn-in to work for WPS they are then governed by the Police Services Act. That governance, he said, continues even if an officer is off on a leave of absence.
An officers’ duties and responsibilities “don’t evaporate simply because they are on a leave” Chandler told Elbers.
With regards to payment for court appearances, in spite of their misunderstanding about compensation, the hearing learned however at no point was Brisco called to testify in court for any cases he was involved in before his unpaid leave of absence started.
Chandler noted the Windsor Police Association filed a grievance over the vaccination policy but it was withdrawn when the WPS stopped enforcing it in July 2022.
“They would have preferred a vax or test policy,” Chandler told Elbers.
Chandler confirmed Brisco would have been asked to provide proof of two vaccinations against COVID-19 before he was reinstated in May 2022.
The hearing will resume later this month with cross-examination of Brisco.
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