"It was a reasonable question to ask," Ret. Service Sergeant Peter Danyluk said of Const. Helen Grus's inquiry into possible links between an increase in infant deaths brought to the Ottawa Police Service's (OPS) attention and the "vaccination status" of the infants' mothers during the thirteenth day of proceedings in Grus's disciplinary tribunal on Wednesday in Ottawa.
Grus, an OPS officer with the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse unit, is alleged by her employer to have committed discreditable conduct — which could lead to her demotion or termination — for inquiring about an increased number of infant deaths in 2021 and 2022 relative to earlier years, following the release of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada.
The OPS has accused Grus of carrying out an "unauthorized project" with her inquiry, which allegedly involved contacting family members of the babies who had died to determine if their mothers had taken mRNA injection marketed as "COVID-19 vaccines".
"[The vaccine] was the only variable we were all aware of that changed [in 2021]," testified retired OPS Staff Sergeant Peter Danyluk as a witness during cross-examination from prosecutor Vanessa Stewart.
Danyluk worked for over 20 years with the OPS after more than a decade with military.
He speculated that Grus's "unpopular opinion" about the mRNA injections led to her being reported to the OPS's Professional Standards Unit for inappropriate conduct.
"You would think our people would want to relay this information to the relevant authorities to investigate," he said, referring to the possibility of police officers identifying trends and patterns with their information database of possible interest to health authorities.
The OPS's records management system database contains case information which occasionally includes medical information deemed relevant by police officers updating the files. Grus is accused of inappropriately querying the database to search for medical information and contact details to inquire about the infants' mothers' vaccination status.
Danyluk said Grus "was very careful" with her inquiry. "She wasn't arriving at any conclusions, he added, "that would be up to a doctor."
"She never said she was engaging in medical research," he testified.
Prosecutor Stewart says medical data can only lawfully be accessed by police via judicial authorization or medical release forms, with the implication that Grus's inquiry was violative of confidentiality around medical information.
Danyluk explained during testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday that queries into the records database are "normal" and "daily" occurrences for OPS officers, including on cases where they are not formally assigned as lead investigators.
Blair Ector, one of Grus's lawyers, said Inspector Hugh O'Toole, who heads the OPS's Professional Standards Unit, emailed his client shortly before she was expected to testify during Wednesday's proceedings.
Ector said O'Toole's email warned Grus not to introduce any OPS documents during her testimony. "[O'Toole] is intimidating a witness and a participant in this hearing," he stated.
Bath-Sheba van den Berg, Grus's other lawyer, echoed her colleague's assessment that O'Toole was engaging in "witness intimidation" and "tampering" with the tribunal.