A Toronto police officer who pleaded guilty to neglect of duty for failing to properly investigate a woman’s complaint about threats made by her ex-boyfriend before her murder will remain on the job.
Const. Sang Youb Lee will not be dismissed from the Toronto Police Service (TPS) and will instead be demoted, according to police tribunal documents outlining the decision made by Peel Regional Police Supt. Taufic Saliba, who heard the case.
Lee was facing possible termination in connection with his actions while investigating a domestic violence report from 23-year-old Daniella Mallia on Aug. 15, 2022 – three days before she was found fatally shot in an underground parking garage in North York.
According to the agreed statement of facts submitted at the tribunal, Lee and his partner Const. Anson Alfonso, who worked at 32 Division, met with Mallia, who informed them her ex-boyfriend had been harassing and threatening her through text.
After reading the messages on Mallia’s phone, the tribunal documents said Lee “regarded their interaction as one of mutual harassment, following an unpleasant breakup.”
Mallia then told the officers she did not want her ex to be charged, saying she “did not want to see another Black man go to jail.” Mallia added she feared that he would retaliate if he was arrested.
Thus, she asked the officers how to obtain a peace bond or restraining order against her ex-boyfriend.
“Officer Lee misapprehended evidence presented to him. Accordingly, though he had grounds to arrest the ex-boyfriend for uttering threats, neither he or his partner arrested him. Instead, officer Alfonso called ex-boyfriend and warned him to stay away from the victim. Also the officers told the complainant avoid contact with her ex-boyfriend and cautioned her accordingly,” the documents said.
Additionally, according to the documents, the officer failed to upload the evidence into the police system in a timely manner and did not alert his supervisor or the Criminal Investigation Bureau about the event. Lee also failed to identify the event as an intimate partner violence call.
“Officer Lee’s actions constituted a failure to do his duty to act on information and evidence provided by the complainant. His conduct constituted a substantial departure from what is expected of a reasonable police officer in these circumstances,” the documents said.
Mallia’s ex-boyfriend was later arrested and charged with first-degree murder in her death.
After the actions of Lee and Alfonso, who is also facing disciplinary charges, became public, Toronto police faced intense criticism. Chief Myron Demkiw met with Mallia’s family to inform them about the alleged misconduct and also released a statement to share his concerns about the incident.
TPS sought dismissal
At the hearing, TPS prosecutor Alexandra Miller sought Lee’s termination from the service, arguing that holding the constable accountable “will maintain the public’s confidence in the Service’s discipline process while ensuring that TPS members fulfill their obligations to the community.”
The prosecution also asserted the actions of the two officers “had a significant impact on their reputations and that of the service.”
The prosecution further argued that dismissing Lee would send a message to other officers that TPS will not tolerate misconduct. However, Saliba rejected TPS’ plea for dismissal.
“As stated previously, Constable Lee experienced deep emotional impact as a result of this incident. His early participation in counselling, participation in the internal investigation and guilty plea before this Tribunal are factors that leave no doubt in my mind that Constable Lee will not repeat this misconduct,” he wrote in his analysis.
Saliba stated he also took into consideration the apology Lee read during the hearing.
“Please know that this tragedy will always weigh heavily on me as a reminder of Daniella, and that I will remain vigilant and dedicated to the safety of our community,” part of Lee’s apology read.
Saliba also acknowledged the family of Mallia, who addressed the tribunal, forgiving Lee and asking that he not be fired.
“I think for me, this is going to educate you, make you a better police officer. I don’t want to see you lose your job. I think you learned a lot from this and I know deep in my heart that you’ll be a better officer if given the chance,” Mallia’s father stated.
Ultimately, Saliba concluded: “A core consideration in determining Constable Lee’s usefulness to continue as a police officer and hence, a public servant to the citizens of Toronto, is anchored in his suitability to perform the duties of the job. In my view, this requires Constable Lee’s understanding of the misconduct, genuine remorse, acceptance of responsibility, along with the confidence of credible references in his potential to serve. I find all of the above factors to be present in this matter.”
In addition to demotion, Lee had been ordered to enroll, attend and complete supplemental training deemed necessary by TPS and the Toronto Police College.