A veteran police officer from Canada’s Peel region was demoted for one year after pleading guilty to “discreditable conduct” over an April 2021 video that showed him hugging and shaking hands with anti-lockdown protesters outside a Mississauga gym that opened to the public despite provincial stay-at-home orders.
Const. Paul Brown was demoted from his sergeant position after a discipline hearing last month, according to Mississauga News.
The report also detailed that Brown caught flak for stances he expressed in the recording, supporting the protesters and noting that he disagreed with lockdown and mask mandates in place at the time.
He was also not wearing a mask in the recording.
The incident created a stir among some in the department at the time, including Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, who criticized Brown over his refusal to abide by COVID protocol enforcement.
“Upon learning of the incident, I immediately directed that the sergeant be suspended and commenced an Internal Affairs investigation,” Duraiappah said in a statement at the time. “Peel Regional Police are committed to ensuring the safety of our members and the public. Our officers will enforce municipal and provincial regulations as required.”
Retired Superintendent Peter Lennox, the hearing officer who released the decision, later alleged Brown’s actions “might have eroded public confidence in Peel Regional Police’s willingness to enforce the law,” according to Missisauga News’ report.
Sean O’Shea, a reporter with Canada’s Global News, showed up at the site and recorded the video where protesters confronted him and accused him of “communism” and “fascism” for toeing the lockdown line.
“Uniformed Peel Police sergeant is all hugs with supporters of HUF gym before and after one of their group members pursued me. No masks. He offers me a hug, too. I decline. City ordered gym closed; they refuse,” he captioned.
O’Shea criticized Brown for fraternizing with the protesters, especially while refusing to wear a mask in the middle of the pandemic.
HUF Gym, the site of the protests, refused to close its doors to clients despite area restrictions. Mississauga News said the establishment’s Instagram shared a separate video of Brown to its page and, in it, he stated his unwillingness to enforce the COVID policies demonstrators were protesting.
Brown was suspended at the time and placed on paid leave during an internal investigation.
Despite backlash, Brown’s defense team claimed his actions were done with intent to keep the peace instead of advance an agenda.
Joanne Mulcahy, Brown’s attorney, reportedly told Lennox that he would take back his actions if he could.
Mulcahy also defended him for attending other protests, including the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa and a separate rally in Toronto on his personal time, arguing that he never identified himself as a police officer during the event.
Fox News Digital reached out to the Peel Regional Police for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.