Bad temper, binge drinking not a disability: Court

Ottawa cop fired after assaulting other officers; claimed he needed accommodation for anger management and alcohol problems but could still do his job

An Ontario police officer who had anger management issues but insisted he could still perform his job duties could not claim his bad temper was a disability requiring accommodation, the Ontario Superior Court has ruled.

Jeffrey Gulick was an officer with the Ottawa Police Service. On May 22, 2008, Gulick was asked to give up his weapon after he failed a use of force test. Gulick went home angry and, later that day, four police officers were called to his home after a 911 call from a neighbour. Gulick attacked the officers, threatened to kill two of them and tried to run away.

Gulick pleaded guilty to a charge of discreditable conduct and was ordered to resign, or else he would be dismissed from his job. An appeal to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission was unsuccessful and Gulick claimed he had suffered from anger management problems all of his adult life. He argued this constituted a disability that should be accommodated and he should only be demoted for his misconduct.

Gulick sought treatment for alcohol and drug abuse — he admitted to binge drinking and abusing prescription drugs — and in early 2009 he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from events during his police career.

The court found that the incident on May 22, 2008, was exacerbated by alcohol and drugs as well as Gulick’s PTSD, but was primarily caused by Gulick’s anger management issues. The court found the evidence didn’t indicate the substance abuse or PTSD rendered Gulick incapable of doing his job, and Gulick admitted as much by acknowledging he was able to perform his duties with only a demotion and had worked with his anger management issues for years.

Gulick’s psychologist testified that he thought Gulick’s behaviour was the result of a “toxic state” that made Gulick incapable of rational thought or judgment, but the court was dubious as to the psychologist’s qualifications and no hard evidence was presented.

“There was some evidence that (Gulick) was addicted to alcohol and some medically prescribed drugs. There was also some evidence that the applicant was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. However, there was no evidence that any of those conditions rendered him unable to perform any aspect of his job description. Indeed, quite the opposite was claimed. In submitting through his counsel that the appropriate penalty was simply a demotion, (Gulick) took the position that he was able to perform and carry out his essential employment duties,” said the court.

The court upheld the order for Gulick to resign or be dismissed.

For more information see:

Gulick v. Ottawa Police Service, 2012 CarswellOnt 12232 (Ont. S.C.J.).

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