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Peel officer who accidentally recorded himself pleads guilty to ‘discreditable conduct’

JESSICA BRUNO AND ADRIAN GHOBRIAL | posted Tuesday, Nov 10th, 2020

The Peel police officer who accidentally recorded himself berating someone under arrest is now apologizing before an internal disciplinary tribunal.

In November 2018, Peel police officers arrested Masood Masad at his home after the food delivery driver was involved in a dispute at a Mississauga restaurant. At the time, Constable Bernard Trlaja unknowingly recorded himself making xenophobic statements to Masad on the suspect’s own cell phone.

The 15-minute recording was taken while the officer was in his squad car with Masad, driving him to the police station. In it, Trlaja says, “This kid obviously doesn’t understand the rule, nature and culture of Canada. If he wants to be violent and bring that violence with him, then he’s going to have to learn the way.”

According to an agreed statement of facts, the officer went to the Masad family home to speak to Masood after restaurant staff called police and asked them to tell Masood he was not to go to the restaurant ever again.

First, Trlaja called Masood, who responded in Arabic, a language the constable doesn’t know, according to the statement of facts. Then the officer called the house line. Masood’s mother picked up and said she was skeptical that Trlaja was in fact an officer, as the family often received fraudulent phone calls. The statement of facts indicates that while Trlaja was telling her how to call his police station to confirm his identity, she told him that if he were a real officer, he should come to the house. She then hung up on him.

After calling two other officers for backup and attending the Masad home, Trlaja arrested Masood. In the recording he says: “I came to your house with a different approach, but then when I got the arrogance of your mother and I got the arrogance of you – f*** buddy, don’t f*** with me now okay.”

In home security video showing the police cruisers in the family’s driveway, Trlaja and the two other responding officers can be seen holding Masood’s phone.

Masood had started a video recording on the phone when the police arrived at his home. One officer is seen in the video ending the recording and handing the phone to Trlaja.

The statement of facts says Trlaja then accidentally started a new recording when he placed the phone next to him inside the police cruiser.

In the recording, Trlaja asks Masood: “What’s your problem buddy? Are you r******d? Now you’re a mouse with your tail stuck between your a**hole.”

Shortly after Masood’s arrest, the charge was downgraded to mischief and then dropped by a Crown prosecutor.

In the statement of facts, Trlaja now agrees his actions were discreditable conduct under the service’s Code of Conduct.

The full agreed statement of facts is below:

Last year, Ontario’s Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) found reasonable grounds that Masood’s arrest was unlawful and that Trlaja’s conduct was discreditable — ordering Peel’s chief to hold a hearing.

At the time, Trlaja was involved in another disciplinary hearing for a separate incident, where its alleged he made inappropriate comments to a Peel police employee.

Meanwhile, the 17-year police veteran has been suspended with pay. He made more than $103,000 in 2019, according to Ontario’s sunshine list.

The tribunal prosecutor is not pursuing an unlawful arrest charge against Trlaja. The Masad Family has also received two letters of apology from the constable — one to Masood, and one to his father Bashar, who was home the night of the arrest and brought the OIPRD complaint.

“I truly apologize for how I spoke to you in your residence and more particularly the police cruiser,” the apology to Masood reads.

Read the full apology letter to Masood below:

In the letter to Bashar, Trlaja states: “My conversation with Masood in the residence and during the transportation was fueled by emotional frustration, not from any prejudice against your ethnicity or culture.”

Read the full apology letter to Masood’s father Bashar below:

Bashar says he appreciates the apology, and more than individual punishment of the officer, he wants to see systemic change in how police contact people by phone.

“It was written in strong words, the apology,” he says. “Regardless what the main aim of doing that is — whether to avoid punishment or whether it’s genuine … at least for us Constable Trlaja had the courage to come and say, ‘I’m sorry I did something wrong.’ Not everybody is capable of doing that.”

The hearing continues this week, and Peel police tell CityNews that the coming days will be used to hear evidence on how the officer should be penalized.

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