Ex-wife of Chatham-Kent police officer speaks out after husband’s assault conviction
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Janine Bechard has spent the last 23 years chronicling alleged verbal, emotional and physical abuse she suffered during her marriage with a convicted Chatham-Kent police officer, and she’s now breaking her silence.
"It holds a lot of horrible, unbelievable situations in it," says Bechard, of the book she refers to as 'her diary'.”
The diary contains emails, text messages, records of phone calls and pictures related to her relationship with her now ex-husband. Bechard says she kept it locked away for decades, out of fear.
"He's a police officer and he told me over and over again, that none of the police officers would believe me, they wouldn't believe my story,” she says. "They wouldn't believe my son. We were to keep it a secret. It was a 'family secret'."
Bechard says she stayed in the relationship out of fear for her and her son’s lives.
"I did it because I was in survival mode and if I wasn't in survival mode I probably not be standing here today," says Bechard.
Bechard tells CTV Windsor she tried to seek professional help for Lunn on multiple occasions.
"You believe that you might be able to help them. That they can change and if they could only see it for themselves and recognize that they need that help, and you stick in, stick with them because you want to make sure they get that help," Bechard recalls. "And I tried. I tried for years."
Unsuccessful, Bechard says she reached a point where she felt the threat became too much to bear.
"He used to bring home his gun and he pointed it at me and he threatened to kill me with it," says Bechard. "Darcy was not concerned whatsoever and joked about it, picked it up and put it my face, laughed it off and said, 'If I wanted to kill you I could kill you right now'."
Through his lawyer, Const. Lunn vehemently denies this allegation.
According to court documents, In March 2015 Lunn threatened to strike Bechard while presenting a balled fist. Their son, stood between Lunn and Bechard, then Lunn pushed her against the wall.
That's when she decided to get out.
"I knew in that moment that if I didn't say something or do something to stop it, I would be dead," says Bechard. "The rage and the look in his eyes were so cold. I just knew he had it in him, in that moment to take my life."
She filed for divorce and moved out with their teenaged son. The process was finalized in 2017.
It was two years before Bechard finally worked up the strength to call the Ontario Provincial Police, which she did Oct. 31, 2019.
"It was the hardest thing I ever did because I didn't think the police would believe me," she says. "I didn't think the police could help, but I was desperate and I didn't want to see my son suffer."
Two days later Darcy Lunn was arrested and charged with assault and uttering threats.
"We didn't become aware of any of these allegations until Mrs. Bechard filed a report with the OPP," says Michael Pearce of the Chatham-Kent Police Service Professional Standards Branch.
Chatham-Kent Police, pending the outcome of the case, suspended Lunn, with pay.
In May, 2020, Lunn pleaded guilty to assaulting Bechard and also to uttering threats to cause bodily harm.
He received a suspended sentence and three years' probation, with conditions that he's not to contact his wife or son or possess a weapon - except the firearm issued by Chatham-Kent police, and only while working.
Police Services Act disciplinary charges quickly followed.
"Chief (Gary) Conn thought that would be appropriate, given the gravity of the circumstances, so he assigned and outside council and outside adjudicator," says Pearce.
In December, Lunn pleaded guilty to three counts of discreditable conduct and one count of neglect of duty for bringing his firearm home without the chief's permission and for threatening and assaulting his wife.
Hearing Officer Retired deputy chief of York police Terrence Kelly took into account Lunn's exemplary service record, but still offered a stinging decision at the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing.
"(Lunn's) behaviour was alarmingly far short of the conduct expected of a serving officer, more so an officer with his length of seniority," the hearing officer’s decision reads.
For his actions, Darcy Lunn was demoted from first class to the rank of fourth class constable and successively promoted to higher ranks for six months each. After 18 months, he was to be reinstated to first class constable. According to Sgt. Pearce, that amounts to a $30,000 gross pay cut.
"Both tiers-of-fact felt that there was rehabilitative potential, or I'm guessing the decision would have been different," Pearce notes.
Chatham-Kent Police Chief Gary Conn accepted the decision, noting the service will continue to hold officers accountable.
"This is certainly an unfortunate and disturbing set of circumstances surrounding Const. Lunn. Any police officer is expected to uphold higher standards of conduct in both their professional and personal lives," chief Conn said through a statement.
In late December, after being suspended with pay for nearly 14 months, Const. Lunn was reinstated and is once again actively patrolling the community of Chatham-Kent.
Bechard was not invited by prosecutors to testify in the disciplinary hearing -- nor was she advised when Lunn resumed his policing duties.
"In retrospect, we should have been more forthright in the notification," says Pearce. "There was a miscommunication, internally, that falls within the responsibility of the professional standards section with our service. But it certainly wasn't done out of any sort of malice or ill-intent."
CTV reached out to Lunn through his lawyer Lucas O’Hara, who advised that Const. Darcy Lunn respectfully declined the opportunity to respond, based on legal advice. O'Hara also indicated that the sentences Const. Lunn received were consistent with previous precedents involving similar facts.
Bechard believes the seriousness of the situation was ignored by police and the courts. She asserts Lunn continues to be protected by the badge.
"It doesn't make any sense to me that someone who was able to sneak their gun home over a regular, consistent basis over a span of a few years, and then threaten their family with it, is allowed to hold the same gun again, for their job. And protect the community with it," Bechard says.
"To suggest that we are trying to hide anything, I would not characterize it that way at all," counters Pearce. "We turned the matter over to an independent prosecution team and an outside adjudicator and those decisions were made by those people...Both triers-of-fact found it appropriate that that can occur."
According to his lawyer, Const. Lunn has since successfully completed domestic violence counselling through the Changing Ways Partner Assault Response program.
Bechard is telling her story to encourage other victims of alleged abuse seek help and to speak their truths.
"I have to put those fears aside because that's what stops change and we need change," Bechard says. "We need change in Chatham-Kent and we need change everywhere when it comes to the police force."
"They need to take these situations seriously because the victims don't deserve to live in silence and live scared."