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Tribunal hearing delayed for high-ranking Barrie police officer

Insp. Valarie Gates charged with discreditable conduct under Police Services Act; hearing pushed back to Jan. 23 due to 'scheduling issue'
Barrie police Insp. Val Gates, who is married to Chief Rich Johnston, will have a Police Services Act hearing on Jan. 23. She has been charged with discreditable conduct.

A Police Services Act tribunal for a high-ranking Barrie police officer initially slated for later this week has been rescheduled.

Insp. Valarie Gates, who has been charged with discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act, was initially scheduled to appear virtually before the tribunal on Friday, Jan. 12. However, the hearing has been pushed back until Jan. 23.

Barrie police Staff Sgt. Jason Fearon, with the department’s Executive Services Professional Standards division, told BarrieToday the change is due to a “scheduling issue.”

“Traditionally, when charges like this are brought out and they set a date … they usually don’t consult the officer to (ask if they are) available on this date," he said. "Unfortunately, what had happened here is she had had holidays down south booked for that date.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, so we do our best to accommodate people and make the date work for everybody to attend," Fearon added. 

The nature of the allegations against Gates, who is married to Barrie Police Chief Rich Johnston, remain unclear. 

Barrie city police issued a news release on Dec. 1 indicating the charge was laid after a recent investigation was conducted by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Office of Professionalism, Respect, Inclusion and Leadership.

The alleged incident stems from "an on-duty, internal incident," according to the Barrie police department's upcoming hearings page.

"An allegation of an on-duty internal incident was received by Barrie Police Deputy Chief R. Wyllie Allan earlier this year involving a 26-year officer of the service who holds the rank of inspector," stated the release. "After receiving the complaint, Deputy Chief Allan requested the assistance of the OPP to conduct the investigation."

No other details about the allegation have been released.

The Jan. 23 appearance is slated to take place virtually, Fearon confirmed, noting he doesn’t expect it to take more than a few minutes.

“These first appearance dates are essentially that … they show up, they say ‘these are the allegations’. The officer hasn’t seen the disclosure and neither has the lawyer yet. Disclosure gets exchanged and they set another date where they can actually speak to the details of the case,” Fearon said.

“This is usually a very short and sweet meeting, but we have to publicize it so everyone can see as the steps proceed.

"This one has been specifically set to virtual because it’s probably going to be very short," he added. "Her name will be read into the record, the allegation will be read forward … and they will set a date to deal with the issues then.”

As the case moves forward, Fearon said he expects it will move to being in person at the Barrie Police Service Headquarters on Fairview Road in the Community Room.

“Traditionally, they like to give the opportunity for people to show up in person to see these things, especially if it’s going to be a long day, where there are a lot of things going on, a lot of cross-examining or a lot of arguing," he said. 

Gates has spent a large part of her policing career working in domestic violence, as well as in areas of mental health and child/youth advocacy.

The former Innisdale Secondary School graduate started her career with Peel Regional Police in 1997 before returning to Barrie in 2002 as a sergeant.

Gates was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant in 2018 and inspector in 2021.